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Full text of "The Thomas Hardy Collection"

Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



By Thomas Hardy 



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- 
Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. <y Ct) ® 



Phase the First: The Maiden 



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On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged 
man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of 
Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor. 
The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was 
a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left 
of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in 
confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking 
of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung 
upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being 
quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking 
it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a 
gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune. 

'Good night t'ee,' said the man with the basket. 

'Good night, Sir John,' said the parson. 

The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and 
turned round. 

'Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day 
on this road about this time, and I said 'Good night,' and 
you made reply 'Good night, Sir John,' as now.' 

'I did,' said the parson. 

'And once before that — near a month ago.' 

'I may have.' 

'Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir 
John' these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbey- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



field, the haggler?' 

The parson rode a step or two nearer. 

'It was only my whim,' he said; and, after a moment's 
hesitation: 'It was on account of a discovery I made some 
little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the 
new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, 
of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that 
you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly 
family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent from 
Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came 
from Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears 
by Battle Abbey Roll?' 

'Never heard it before, sir!' 

'Well it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that 
I may catch the profile of your face better. Yes, that's the 
d'Urberville nose and chin — a little debased. Your ances- 
tor was one of the twelve knights who assisted the Lord of 
Estremavilla in Normandy in his conquest of Glamorgan- 
shire. Branches of your family held manors over all this part 
of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the time 
of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was 
rich enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; 
and in Edward the Second's time your forefather Brian was 
summoned to Westminster to attend the great Council 
there. You declined a little in Oliver Cromwell's time, but 
to no serious extent, and in Charles the Second's reign you 
were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your loyalty. Aye, 
there have been generations of Sir Johns among you, and if 
knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practi- 



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cally was in old times, when men were knighted from father 
to son, you would be Sir John now.' 

'Ye don't say so!' 

'In short,' concluded the parson, decisively smacking his 
leg with his switch, 'there's hardly such another family in 
England.' 

'Daze my eyes, and isn't there?' said Durbeyfield. 'And 
here have I been knocking about, year after year, from pil- 
lar to post, as if I was no more than the commonest feller 
in the parish... And how long hev this news about me been 
knowed, Pa'son Tringham?' 

The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it 
had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said 
to be known at all. His own investigations had begun on 
a day in the preceding spring when, having been engaged 
in tracing the vicissitudes of the d'Urberville family, he 
had observed Durbeyfield's name on his waggon, and had 
thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and 
grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject. 

At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a use- 
less piece of information,' said he. 'However, our impulses 
are too strong for our judgement sometimes. I thought you 
might perhaps know something of it all the while.' 

'Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my fam- 
ily had seen better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But 
I took no notice o't, thinking it to mean that we had once 
kept two horses where we now keep only one. I've got a wold 
silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, 
what's a spoon and seal? ... And to think that I and these 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time. 'Twas said 
that my gr't-granfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of 
where he came from... And where do we raise our smoke, 
now, parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we 
d'Urbervilles live?' 

'You don't live anywhere. You are extinct — as a county 
family.' 

'That's bad.' 

'Yes — what the mendacious family chronicles call ex- 
tinct in the male line — that is, gone down — gone under.' 

'Then where do we lie?' 

At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in 
your vaults, with your effigies under Purbeck-marble cano- 
pies.' 

And where be our family mansions and estates?' 

'You haven't any.' 

'Oh? No lands neither?' 

'None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, 
for you family consisted of numerous branches. In this 
county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another 
at Sherton, and another in Millpond, and another at Lull- 
stead, and another at Wellbridge.' 

And shall we ever come into our own again?' 

Ah— that I can't tell!' 

And what had I better do about it, sir?' asked Durbey- 
field, after a pause. 

'Oh — nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the 
thought of 'how are the mighty fallen.' It is a fact of some in- 
terest to the local historian and genealogist, nothing more. 



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There are several families among the cottagers of this coun- 
ty of almost equal lustre. Good night.' 

'But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me 
on the strength o't, Pa'son Tringham? There's a very pretty 
brew in tap at The Pure Drop — though, to be sure, not so 
good as at Rolliver's.' 

'No, thank you — not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've 
had enough already.' Concluding thus, the parson rode on 
his way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this cu- 
rious bit of lore. 

When he was gone, Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a 
profound reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank 
by the roadside, depositing his basket before him. In a few 
minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the 
same direction as that which had been pursued by Durbey- 
field. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad 
quickened his pace and came near. 

'Boy, take up that basket! I want 'ee to go on an errand 
for me.' 

The lath-like stripling frowned. 'Who be you, then, John 
Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know 
my name as well as I know yours!' 

'Do you, do you? That's the secret — that's the secret! Now 
obey my orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 
'ee wi'... Well, Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret 
is that I'm one of a noble race — it has been just found out 
by me this present afternoon, P.M.' And as he made the 
announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting 
position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



among the daisies. 

The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his 
length from crown to toe. 

'Sir John d'Urberville — that's who I am,' continued the 
prostrate man. 'That is if knights were baronets — which 
they be. 'Tis recorded in history all about me. Dost know of 
such a place, lad, as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?' 

'Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair.' 

'Well, under the church of that city there lie — ' 

"Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I 
was there — 'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place.' 

'Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question 
before us. Under the church of that there parish lie my an- 
cestors — hundreds of 'em — in coats of mail and jewels, in 
gr't lead coffins weighing tons and tons. There's not a man 
in the county o' South-Wessex that's got grander and nobler 
skillentons in his family than I.' 

'Oh?' 

'Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and 
when you've come to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a 
horse and carriage to me immed'ately, to carry me hwome. 
And in the bottom o' the carriage they be to put a noggin o' 
rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up to my account. And 
when you've done that goo on to my house with the bas- 
ket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she 
needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news 
to tell her.' 

As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put 
his hand in his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the 



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chronically few that he possessed. 

'Here's for your labour, lad.' 

This made a difference in the young man's estimate of 
the position. 

'Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee. Anything else I can do for 'ee, 
Sir John?' 

'Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper, — well, 
lamb's fry if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and 
if they can't get that, well chitterlings will do.' 

'Yes, Sir John.' 

The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of 
a brass band were heard from the direction of the village. 

'What's that?' said Durbeyfield. 'Not on account o' I?' 

"Tis the women's club -walking, Sir John. Why, your 
da'ter is one o' the members.' 

'To be sure — I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater 
things! Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that 
carriage, and maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club.' 

The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the 
grass and daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that 
way for a long while, and the faint notes of the band were the 
only human sounds audible within the rim of blue hills. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



II 



The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undu- 
lations of the beautiful Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, 
aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded region, for the most 
part untrodden as yet by tourist or landscape-painter, 
though within a four hours' journey from London. 

It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it 
from the summits of the hills that surround it — except per- 
haps during the droughts of summer. An unguided ramble 
into its recesses in bad weather is apt to engender dissatis- 
faction with its narrow, tortuous, and miry ways. 

This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the 
fields are never brown and the springs never dry, is bound- 
ed on the south by the bold chalk ridge that embraces the 
prominences of Hambledon Hill, Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe- 
Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down. The traveller 
from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score 
of miles over calcareous downs and corn-lands, suddenly 
reaches the verge of one of these escarpments, is surprised 
and delighted to behold, extended like a map beneath him, a 
country differing absolutely from that which he has passed 
through. Behind him the hills are open, the sun blazes 
down upon fields so large as to give an unenclosed char- 
acter to the landscape, the lanes are white, the hedges low 
and plashed, the atmosphere colourless. Here, in the valley, 



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the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more 
delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that 
from this height their hedgerows appear a network of dark 
green threads overspreading the paler green of the grass. 
The atmosphere beneath is languorous, and is so tinged 
with azure that what artists call the middle distance par- 
takes also of that hue, while the horizon beyond is of the 
deepest ultramarine. Arable lands are few and limited; with 
but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of 
grass and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the 
major. Such is the Vale of Blackmoor. 

The district is of historic, no less than of topographical 
interest. The Vale was known in former times as the For- 
est of White Hart, from a curious legend of King Henry 
Ill's reign, in which the killing by a certain Thomas de la 
Lynd of a beautiful white hart which the king had run down 
and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine. In those 
days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was 
densely wooded. Even now, traces of its earlier condition 
are to be found in the old oak copses and irregular belts 
of timber that yet survive upon its slopes, and the hollow- 
trunked trees that shade so many of its pastures. 

The forests have departed, but some old customs of 
their shades remain. Many, however, linger only in a meta- 
morphosed or disguised form. The May-Day dance, for 
instance, was to be discerned on the afternoon under no- 
tice, in the guise of the club revel, or 'club -walking,' as it 
was there called. 

It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



of Marlott, though its real interest was not observed by the 
participators in the ceremony. Its singularity lay less in the 
retention of a custom of walking in procession and danc- 
ing on each anniversary than in the members being solely 
women. In men's clubs such celebrations were, though ex- 
piring, less uncommon; but either the natural shyness of the 
softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male rela- 
tives, had denuded such women's clubs as remained (if any 
other did) or this their glory and consummation. The club 
of Marlott alone lived to uphold the local Cerealia. It had 
walked for hundreds of years, if not as benefit-club, as vo- 
tive sisterhood of some sort; and it walked still. 

The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns — a gay 
survival from Old Style days, when cheerfulness and May- 
time were synonyms — days before the habit of taking long 
views had reduced emotions to a monotonous average. Their 
first exhibition of themselves was in a processional march of 
two and two round the parish. Ideal and real clashed slight- 
ly as the sun lit up their figures against the green hedges 
and creeper-laced house-fronts; for, though the whole troop 
wore white garments, no two whites were alike among them. 
Some approached pure blanching; some had a bluish pallor; 
some worn by the older characters (which had possibly lain 
by folded for many a year) inclined to a cadaverous tint, and 
to a Georgian style. 

In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every 
woman and girl carried in her right hand a peeled willow 
wand, and in her left a bunch of white flowers. The peeling 
of the former, and the selection of the latter, had been an op- 



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eration of personal care. 

There were a few middle-aged and even elderly wom- 
en in the train, their silver-wiry hair and wrinkled faces, 
scourged by time and trouble, having almost a grotesque, 
certainly a pathetic, appearance in such a jaunty situation. 
In a true view, perhaps, there was more to be gathered and 
told of each anxious and experienced one, to whom the 
years were drawing nigh when she should say, 'I have no 
pleasure in them,' than of her juvenile comrades. But let the 
elder be passed over here for those under whose bodices the 
life throbbed quick and warm. 

The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, 
and their heads of luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine 
every tone of gold, and black, and brown. Some had beauti- 
ful eyes, others a beautiful nose, others a beautiful mouth 
and figure: few, if any, had all. A difficulty of arranging their 
lips in this crude exposure to public scrutiny, an inability 
to balance their heads, and to dissociate self-consciousness 
from their features, was apparent in them, and showed that 
they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many 
eyes. 

And as each and all of them were warmed without by 
the sun, so each had a private little sun for her soul to bask 
in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, at least some 
remote and distant hope which, though perhaps starving to 
nothing, still lived on, as hopes will. They were all cheerful, 
and many of them merry. 

They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turn- 
ing out of the high road to pass through a wicket-gate into 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



the meadows, when one of the women said — 

'The Load-a-Lord! Why, Tess Durbeyfield, if there isn't 
thy father riding hwome in a carriage!' 

A young member of the band turned her head at the 
exclamation. She was a fine and handsome girl — not hand- 
somer than some others, possibly — but her mobile peony 
mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour 
and shape. She wore a red ribbon in her hair, and was the 
only one of the white company who could boast of such a 
pronounced adornment. As she looked round Durbeyfield 
was seen moving along the road in a chaise belonging to 
The Pure Drop, driven by a frizzle-headed brawny dam- 
sel with her gown-sleeves rolled above her elbows. This 
was the cheerful servant of that establishment, who, in her 
part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times. Dur- 
beyfield, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, 
was waving his hand above his head, and singing in a slow 
recitative — 

Tve-got-a-gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere — and knight- 
ed-forefathers-in-lead-coffins-there!' 

The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess — in 
whom a slow heat seemed to rise at the sense that her father 
was making himself foolish in their eyes. 

'He's tired, that's all,' she said hastily, 'and he has got a lift 
home, because our own horse has to rest to-day.' 

'Bless thy simplicity, Tess,' said her companions. 'He's got 
his market-nitch. Haw-haw!' 

'Look here; I won't walk another inch with you, if you say 
any jokes about him!' Tess cried, and the colour upon her 



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cheeks spread over her face and neck. In a moment her eyes 
grew moist, and her glance drooped to the ground. Per- 
ceiving that they had really pained her they said no more, 
and order again prevailed. Tess's pride would not allow her 
to turn her head again, to learn what her father's meaning 
was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole 
body to the enclosure where there was to be dancing on the 
green. By the time the spot was reached she has recovered 
her equanimity, and tapped her neighbour with her wand 
and talked as usual. 

Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere ves- 
sel of emotion untinctured by experience. The dialect was 
on her tongue to some extent, despite the village school: the 
characteristic intonation of that dialect for this district be- 
ing the voicing approximately rendered by the syllable UR, 
probably as rich an utterance as any to be found in human 
speech. The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syl- 
lable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite 
shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle 
of her top one upward, when they closed together after a 
word. 

Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she 
walked along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome wom- 
anliness, you could sometimes see her twelfth year in her 
cheeks, or her ninth sparkling from her eyes; and even her 
fifth would flit over the curves of her mouth now and then. 

Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this. A small mi- 
nority, mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually 
passing by, and grow momentarily fascinated by her fresh- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ness, and wonder if they would ever see her again: but to 
almost everybody she was a fine and picturesque country 
girl, and no more. 

Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his 
triumphal chariot under the conduct of the ostleress, and 
the club having entered the allotted space, dancing began. 
As there were no men in the company, the girls danced at 
first with each other, but when the hour for the close of la- 
bour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of the village, 
together with other idlers and pedestrians, gathered round 
the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner. 

Among these on-lookers were three young men of a su- 
perior class, carrying small knapsacks strapped to their 
shoulders, and stout sticks in their hands. Their general 
likeness to each other, and their consecutive ages, would al- 
most have suggested that they might be, what in fact they 
were, brothers. The eldest wore the white tie, high waistcoat, 
and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate; the second 
was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third 
and youngest would hardly have been sufficient to charac- 
terize him; there was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his 
eyes and attire, implying that he had hardly as yet found the 
entrance to his professional groove. That he was a desultory 
tentative student of something and everything might only 
have been predicted of him. 

These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they 
were spending their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour 
through the Vale of Blackmoor, their course being south- 
westerly from the town of Shaston on the north-east. 



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They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as 
to the meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. 
The two elder of the brothers were plainly not intending to 
linger more than a moment, but the spectacle of a bevy of 
girls dancing without male partners seemed to amuse the 
third, and make him in no hurry to move on. He unstrapped 
his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank, and 
opened the gate. 

'What are you going to do, Angel?' asked the eldest. 

'I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why 
not all of us — just for a minute or two — it will not detain 
us long?' 

'No — no; nonsense!' said the first. 'Dancing in public with 
a troop of country hoydens — suppose we should be seen! 
Come along, or it will be dark before we get to Stourcas- 
tle, and there's no place we can sleep at nearer than that; 
besides, we must get through another chapter of A Coun- 
terblast to Agnosticism before we turn in, now I have taken 
the trouble to bring the book.' 

All right — I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five min- 
utes; don't stop; I give my word that I will, Felix.' 

The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking 
their brother's knapsack to relieve him in following, and the 
youngest entered the field. 

'This is a thousand pities,' he said gallantly, to two or 
three of the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause 
in the dance. 'Where are your partners, my dears?' 

'They've not left off work yet,' answered one of the bold- 
est. 'They'll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



sir: 

'Certainly. But what's one among so many!' 

'Better than none. 'Tis melancholy work facing and foot- 
ing it to one of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at 
all. Now, pick and choose.' 

"Ssh — don't be so for'ard!' said a shyer girl. 

The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and at- 
tempted some discrimination; but, as the group were all so 
new to him, he could not very well exercise it. He took al- 
most the first that came to hand, which was not the speaker, 
as she had expected; nor did it happen to be Tess Durbey- 
field. Pedigree, ancestral skeletons, monumental record, the 
d'Urberville lineaments, did not help Tess in her life's battle 
as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a dancing-part- 
ner over the heads of the commonest peasantry. So much 
for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre. 

The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not 
been handed down; but she was envied by all as the first who 
enjoyed the luxury of a masculine partner that evening. Yet 
such was the force of example that the village young men, 
who had not hastened to enter the gate while no intruder 
was in the way, now dropped in quickly, and soon the cou- 
ples became leavened with rustic youth to a marked extent, 
till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer 
compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure. 

The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said 
that he must leave — he had been forgetting himself — he had 
to join his companions. As he fell out of the dance his eyes 
lighted on Tess Durbeyfield, whose own large orbs wore, 



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to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of reproach that he had 
not chosen her. He, too, was sorry then that, owing to her 
backwardness, he had not observed her; and with that in his 
mind he left the pasture. 

On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run 
down the lane westward, and had soon passed the hollow 
and mounted the next rise. He had not yet overtaken his 
brothers, but he paused to get breath, and looked back. He 
could see the white figures of the girls in the green enclosure 
whirling about as they had whirled when he was among 
them. They seemed to have quite forgotten him already. 

All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood 
apart by the hedge alone. From her position he knew it to be 
the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced. Trifling 
as the matter was, he yet instinctively felt that she was hurt 
by his oversight. He wished that he had asked her; he wished 
that he had inquired her name. She was so modest, so ex- 
pressive, she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that 
he felt he had acted stupidly. 

However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bend- 
ing himself to a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from 
his mind. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



III 



As for Tess Durbeyfield, she did not so easily dislodge the 
incident from her consideration. She had no spirit to dance 
again for a long time, though she might have had plenty of 
partners; but ah! they did not speak so nicely as the strange 
young man had done. It was not till the rays of the sun had 
absorbed the young stranger's retreating figure on the hill 
that she shook off her temporary sadness and answered her 
would-be partner in the affirmative. 

She remained with her comrades till dusk, and partic- 
ipated with a certain zest in the dancing; though, being 
heart-whole as yet, she enjoyed treading a measure pure- 
ly for its own sake; little divining when she saw 'the soft 
torments, the bitter sweets, the pleasing pains, and the 
agreeable distresses' of those girls who had been wooed and 
won, what she herself was capable of in that kind. The strug- 
gles and wrangles of the lads for her hand in a jig were an 
amusement to her — no more; and when they became fierce 
she rebuked them. 

She might have stayed even later, but the incident of her 
father's odd appearance and manner returned upon the 
girl's mind to make her anxious, and wondering what had 
become of him she dropped away from the dancers and 
bent her steps towards the end of the village at which the 
parental cottage lay. 



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While yet many score yards off, other rhythmic sounds 
than those she had quitted became audible to her; sounds 
that she knew well — so well. They were a regular series of 
thumpings from the interior of the house, occasioned by the 
violent rocking of a cradle upon a stone floor, to which move- 
ment a feminine voice kept time by singing, in a vigorous 
gallopade, the favourite ditty of 'The Spotted Cow' — 

I saw her lie do'-own in yon -der green gro'-ove; 
Come, love!' and I'll tell' you where!' 

The cradle-rocking and the song would cease simulta- 
neously for a moment, and an exclamation at highest vocal 
pitch would take the place of the melody. 

'God bless thy diment eyes! And thy waxen cheeks! And 
thy cherry mouth! And thy Cubit's thighs! And every bit o' 
thy blessed body!' 

After this invocation the rocking and the singing would 
recommence, and the 'Spotted Cow' proceed as before. So 
matters stood when Tess opened the door and paused upon 
the mat within it, surveying the scene. 

The interior, in spite of the melody, struck upon the girl's 
senses with an unspeakable dreariness. From the holiday 
gaieties of the field — the white gowns, the nosegays, the 
willow-wands, the whirling movements on the green, the 
flash of gentle sentiment towards the stranger — to the yel- 
low melancholy of this one-candled spectacle, what a step! 
Besides the jar of contrast there came to her a chill self-re- 
proach that she had not returned sooner, to help her mother 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



in these domesticities, instead of indulging herself out-of- 
doors. 

There stood her mother amid the group of children, as 
Tess had left her, hanging over the Monday washing-tub, 
which had now, as always, lingered on to the end of the 
week. Out of that tub had come the day before — Tess felt 
it with a dreadful sting of remorse — the very white frock 
upon her back which she had so carelessly greened about 
the skirt on the damping grass — which had been wrung up 
and ironed by her mother's own hands. 

As usual, Mrs Durbeyfield was balanced on one foot 
beside the tub, the other being engaged in the aforesaid 
business of rocking her youngest child. The cradle-rockers 
had done hard duty for so many years, under the weight 
of so many children, on that flagstone floor, that they were 
worn nearly flat, in consequence of which a huge jerk ac- 
companied each swing of the cot, flinging the baby from 
side to side like a weaver's shuttle, as Mrs Durbeyfield, excit- 
ed by her song, trod the rocker with all the spring that was 
left in her after a long day's seething in the suds. 

Nick-knock, nick-knock, went the cradle; the candle- 
flame stretched itself tall, and began jigging up and down; 
the water dribbled from the matron's elbows, and the song 
galloped on to the end of the verse, Mrs Durbeyfield regard- 
ing her daughter the while. Even now, when burdened with 
a young family, Joan Durbeyfield was a passionate lover of 
tune. No ditty floated into Blackmoor Vale from the outer 
world but Tess's mother caught up its notation in a week. 

There still faintly beamed from the woman's features 



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something of the freshness, and even the prettiness, of her 
youth; rendering it probable that the personal charms which 
Tess could boast of were in main part her mother's gift, and 
therefore unknightly, unhistorical. 

'I'll rock the cradle for 'ee, mother,' said the daughter 
gently. 'Or I'll take off my best frock and help you wring up? 
I thought you had finished long ago.' 

Her mother bore Tess no ill-will for leaving the house- 
work to her single-handed efforts for so long; indeed, Joan 
seldom upbraided her thereon at any time, feeling but slight- 
ly the lack of Tess's assistance whilst her instinctive plan for 
relieving herself of her labours lay in postponing them. To- 
night, however, she was even in a blither mood than usual. 
There was a dreaminess, a pre-occupation, an exaltation, in 
the maternal look which the girl could not understand. 

'Well, I'm glad you've come,' her mother said, as soon as 
the last note had passed out of her. 'I want to go and fetch 
your father; but what's more'n that, I want to tell 'ee what 
have happened. Y'll be fess enough, my poppet, when th'st 
know!' (Mrs Durbeyfield habitually spoke the dialect; her 
daughter, who had passed the Sixth Standard in the Na- 
tional School under a London-trained mistress, spoke two 
languages: the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary Eng- 
lish abroad and to persons of quality.) 

'Since I've been away?' Tess asked. 

'Ay!' 

'Had it anything to do with father's making such a mom- 
met of himself in thik carriage this afternoon? Why did 'er? 
I felt inclined to sink into the ground with shame!' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'That wer all a part of the larry! We've been found to be 
the greatest gentlefolk in the whole county — reaching all 
back long before Oliver Grumble's time — to the days of the 
Pagan Turks — with monuments, and vaults, and crests, and 
'scutcheons, and the Lord knows what all. In Saint Charles's 
days we was made Knights o' the Royal Oak, our real name 
being d'Urberville! ... Don't that make your bosom plim? 
'Twas on this account that your father rode home in the 
vlee; not because he'd been drinking, as people supposed.' 

'I'm glad of that. Will it do us any good, mother?' 

'O yes! 'Tis thoughted that great things may come o't. No 
doubt a mampus of volk of our own rank will be down here 
in their carriages as soon as 'tis known. Your father learnt it 
on his way hwome from Shaston, and he has been telling me 
the whole pedigree of the matter.' 

'Where is father now?' asked Tess suddenly. 

Her mother gave irrelevant information by way of an- 
swer: 'He called to see the doctor to-day in Shaston. It is not 
consumption at all, it seems. It is fat round his heart, 'a says. 
There, it is like this.' Joan Durbeyfield, as she spoke, curved 
a sodden thumb and forefinger to the shape of the letter C, 
and used the other forefinger as a pointer. "At the present 
moment,' he says to your father, 'your heart is enclosed all 
round there, and all round there; this space is still open,' 'a 
says. As soon as it do meet, so," — Mrs Durbeyfield closed 
her fingers into a circle complete — "off you will go like a 
shadder, Mr Durbeyfield,' 'a says. 'You mid last ten years; 
you mid go off in ten months, or ten days." 

Tess looked alarmed. Her father possibly to go behind 



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the eternal cloud so soon, notwithstanding this sudden 
greatness! 

'But where IS father?' she asked again. 

Her mother put on a deprecating look. 'Now don't you 
be bursting out angry! The poor man — he felt so rafted after 
his uplifting by the pa'son's news — that he went up to Rol- 
liver's half an hour ago. He do want to get up his strength 
for his journey to-morrow with that load of beehives, which 
must be delivered, family or no. He'll have to start shortly 
after twelve to-night, as the distance is so long.' 

'Get up his strength!' said Tess impetuously, the tears 
welling to her eyes. 'O my God! Go to a public-house to get 
up his strength! And you as well agreed as he, mother!' 

Her rebuke and her mood seemed to fill the whole room, 
and to impart a cowed look to the furniture, and candle, 
and children playing about, and to her mother's face. 

'No,' said the latter touchily, 'I be not agreed. I have been 
waiting for 'ee to bide and keep house while I go fetch him.' 

Til go.' 

'O no, Tess. You see, it would be no use.' 

Tess did not expostulate. She knew what her mother's 
objection meant. Mrs Durbey field's jacket and bonnet were 
already hanging slily upon a chair by her side, in readiness 
for this contemplated jaunt, the reason for which the ma- 
tron deplored more than its necessity. 

'And take the Compleat Fortune-Teller to the outhouse,' 
Joan continued, rapidly wiping her hands, and donning the 
garments. 

The Compleat Fortune-Teller was an old thick volume, 



26 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



which lay on a table at her elbow, so worn by pocketing that 
the margins had reached the edge of the type. Tess took it 
up, and her mother started. 

This going to hunt up her shiftless husband at the inn 
was one of Mrs Durbeyfield's still extant enjoyments in the 
muck and muddle of rearing children. To discover him at 
Rolliver's, to sit there for an hour or two by his side and 
dismiss all thought and care of the children during the in- 
terval, made her happy. A sort of halo, an occidental glow, 
came over life then. Troubles and other realities took on 
themselves a metaphysical impalpability, sinking to mere 
mental phenomena for serene contemplation, and no longer 
stood as pressing concretions which chafed body and soul. 
The youngsters, not immediately within sight, seemed rath- 
er bright and desirable appurtenances than otherwise; the 
incidents of daily life were not without humorousness and 
jollity in their aspect there. She felt a little as she had used to 
feel when she sat by her now wedded husband in the same 
spot during his wooing, shutting her eyes to his defects of 
character, and regarding him only in his ideal presentation 
as lover. 

Tess, being left alone with the younger children, went first 
to the outhouse with the fortune-telling book, and stuffed it 
into the thatch. A curious fetishistic fear of this grimy vol- 
ume on the part of her mother prevented her ever allowing it 
to stay in the house all night, and hither it was brought back 
whenever it had been consulted. Between the mother, with 
her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions, folk-lore, dialect, 
and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter, with her 



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trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under 
an infinitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred 
years as ordinarily understood. When they were together 
the Jacobean and the Victorian ages were juxtaposed. 

Returning along the garden path Tess mused on what 
the mother could have wished to ascertain from the book 
on this particular day. She guessed the recent ancestral 
discovery to bear upon it, but did not divine that it sole- 
ly concerned herself. Dismissing this, however, she busied 
herself with sprinkling the linen dried during the day-time, 
in company with her nine-year-old brother Abraham, and 
her sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve and a half, called "Liza-Lu,' 
the youngest ones being put to bed. There was an interval of 
four years and more between Tess and the next of the family, 
the two who had filled the gap having died in their infancy, 
and this lent her a deputy-maternal attitude when she was 
alone with her juniors. Next in juvenility to Abraham came 
two more girls, Hope and Modesty; then a boy of three, and 
then the baby, who had just completed his first year. 

All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield 
ship — entirely dependent on the judgement of the two Dur- 
beyfield adults for their pleasures, their necessities, their 
health, even their existence. If the heads of the Durbeyfield 
household chose to sail into difficulty, disaster, starvation, 
disease, degradation, death, thither were these half-dozen 
little captives under hatches compelled to sail with them — 
six helpless creatures, who had never been asked if they 
wished for life on any terms, much less if they wished for 
it on such hard conditions as were involved in being of the 



28 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



shiftless house of Durbeyfield. Some people would like to 
know whence the poet whose philosophy is in these days 
deemed as profound and trustworthy as his song is breezy 
and pure, gets his authority for speaking of 'Nature's holy 
plan.' 

It grew later, and neither father nor mother reappeared. 
Tess looked out of the door, and took a mental journey 
through Marlott. The village was shutting its eyes. Candles 
and lamps were being put out everywhere: she could in- 
wardly behold the extinguisher and the extended hand. 

Her mother's fetching simply meant one more to fetch. 
Tess began to perceive that a man in indifferent health, who 
proposed to start on a journey before one in the morning, 
ought not to be at an inn at this late hour celebrating his 
ancient blood. 

Abraham,' she said to her little brother, 'do you put on 
your hat — you bain't afraid? — and go up to Rolliver's, and 
see what has gone wi' father and mother.' 

The boy jumped promptly from his seat, and opened the 
door, and the night swallowed him up. Half an hour passed 
yet again; neither man, woman, nor child returned. Abra- 
ham, like his parents, seemed to have been limed and caught 
by the ensnaring inn. 

'I must go myself,' she said. 

'Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all in, 
started on her way up the dark and crooked lane or street 
not made for hasty progress; a street laid out before inches 
of land had value, and when one-handed clocks sufficiently 
subdivided the day. 



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IV 



Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the long 
and broken village, could only boast of an off-licence; hence, 
as nobody could legally drink on the premises, the amount 
of overt accommodation for consumers was strictly limited 
to a little board about six inches wide and two yards long, 
fixed to the garden palings by pieces of wire, so as to form a 
ledge. On this board thirsty strangers deposited their cups 
as they stood in the road and drank, and threw the dregs on 
the dusty ground to the pattern of Polynesia, and wished 
they could have a restful seat inside. 

Thus the strangers. But there were also local customers 
who felt the same wish; and where there's a will there's a 
way. 

In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was 
thickly curtained with a great woollen shawl lately discarded 
by the landlady, Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on this evening 
nearly a dozen persons, all seeking beatitude; all old inhab- 
itants of the nearer end of Marlott, and frequenters of this 
retreat. Not only did the distance to the The Pure Drop, the 
fully- licensed tavern at the further part of the dispersed vil- 
lage, render its accommodation practically unavailable for 
dwellers at this end; but the far more serious question, the 
quality of the liquor, confirmed the prevalent opinion that it 
was better to drink with Rolliver in a corner of the housetop 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



than with the other landlord in a wide house. 

A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room 
afforded sitting-space for several persons gathered round 
three of its sides; a couple more men had elevated themselves 
on a chest of drawers; another rested on the oak-carved 
'cwoffer"; two on the wash-stand; another on the stool; and 
thus all were, somehow, seated at their ease. The stage of 
mental comfort to which they had arrived at this hour was 
one wherein their souls expanded beyond their skins, and 
spread their personalities warmly through the room. In this 
process the chamber and its furniture grew more and more 
dignified and luxurious; the shawl hanging at the window 
took upon itself the richness of tapestry; the brass handles 
of the chest of drawers were as golden knockers; and the 
carved bedposts seemed to have some kinship with the 
magnificent pillars of Solomon's temple. 

Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward af- 
ter parting from Tess, opened the front door, crossed the 
downstairs room, which was in deep gloom, and then un- 
fastened the stair-door like one whose fingers knew the 
tricks of the latches well. Her ascent of the crooked staircase 
was a slower process, and her face, as it rose into the light 
above the last stair, encountered the gaze of all the party as- 
sembled in the bedroom. 

' — Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep up 
club-walking at my own expense,' the landlady exclaimed at 
the sound of footsteps, as glibly as a child repeating the Cat- 
echism, while she peered over the stairs. 'Oh, 'tis you, Mrs 
Durbeyfield — Lard — how you frightened me! — I thought it 



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might be some gaffer sent by Gover 'merit.' 

Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods 
by the remainder of the conclave, and turned to where her 
husband sat. He was humming absently to himself, in a low 
tone: 'I be as good as some folks here and there! I've got 
a great family vault at Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill, and finer 
skillentons than any man in Wessex!' 

'I've something to tell 'ee that's come into my head about 
that — a grand projick!' whispered his cheerful wife. 'Here, 
John, don't 'ee see me?' She nudged him, while he, looking 
through her as through a window-pane, went on with his 
recitative. 

'Hush! Don't 'ee sing so loud, my good man,' said the 
landlady; 'in case any member of the Gover 'ment should be 
passing, and take away my licends.' 

'He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?' asked 
Mrs Durbeyfield. 

'Yes — in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by 
it?' 

'Ah, that's the secret,' said Joan Durbeyfield sagely. 'How- 
ever, 'tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you don't ride in 
'en.' She dropped her public voice, and continued in a low 
tone to her husband: 'I've been thinking since you brought 
the news that there's a great rich lady out by Trantridge, on 
the edge o' The Chase, of the name of d'Urberville.' 

'Hey — what's that?' said Sir John. 

She repeated the information. 'That lady must be our re- 
lation,' she said. 'And my projick is to send Tess to claim 
kin.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'There IS a lady of the name, now you mention it,' said 
Durbeyfield. 'Pa'son Tringham didn't think of that. But 
she's nothing beside we — a junior branch of us, no doubt, 
hailing long since King Norman's day.' 

While this question was being discussed neither of the 
pair noticed, in their preoccupation, that little Abraham 
had crept into the room, and was awaiting an opportunity 
of asking them to return. 

'She is rich, and she'd be sure to take notice o' the maid,' 
continued Mrs Durbeyfield; 'and 'twill be a very good thing. 
I don't see why two branches o' one family should not be on 
visiting terms.' 

'Yes; and we'll all claim kin!' said Abraham brightly from 
under the bedstead. And we'll all go and see her when Tess 
has gone to live with her; and we'll ride in her coach and 
wear black clothes!' 

'How do you come here, child? What nonsense be ye talk- 
ing! Go away, and play on the stairs till father and mother 
be ready! ... Well, Tess ought to go to this other member of 
our family. She'd be sure to win the lady — Tess would; and 
likely enough 'twould lead to some noble gentleman marry- 
ing her. In short, I know it.' 

'How?' 

'I tried her fate in the Fortune-Teller, and it brought out 
that very thing! ... You should ha' seen how pretty she looked 
to-day; her skin is as sumple as a duchess'.' 

'What says the maid herself to going?' 

'I've not asked her. She don't know there is any such lady- 
relation yet. But it would certainly put her in the way of a 



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grand marriage, and she won't say nay to going.' 

'Tess is queer.' 

'But she's tractable at bottom. Leave her to me.' 

Though this conversation had been private, sufficient of 
its import reached the understandings of those around to 
suggest to them that the Durbeyfields had weightier con- 
cerns to talk of now than common folks had, and that Tess, 
their pretty eldest daughter, had fine prospects in store. 

'Tess is a fine figure o' fun, as I said to myself to-day when 
I zeed her vamping round parish with the rest,' observed 
one of the elderly boozers in an undertone. 'But Joan Dur- 
beyfield must mind that she don't get green malt in floor.' It 
was a local phrase which had a peculiar meaning, and there 
was no reply. 

The conversation became inclusive, and presently other 
footsteps were heard crossing the room below. 

' — Being a few private friends asked in to-night to keep 
up club-walking at my own expense.' The landlady had rap- 
idly re-used the formula she kept on hand for intruders 
before she recognized that the newcomer was Tess. 

Even to her mother's gaze the girl's young features looked 
sadly out of place amid the alcoholic vapours which floated 
here as no unsuitable medium for wrinkled middle-age; and 
hardly was a reproachful flash from Tess's dark eyes needed 
to make her father and mother rise from their seats, hastily 
finish their ale, and descend the stairs behind her, Mrs Rol- 
liver's caution following their footsteps. 

'No noise, please, if ye'll be so good, my dears; or I mid 
lose my licends, and be summons'd, and I don't know what 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



all! 'Night t'ye!' 

They went home together, Tess holding one arm of her 
father, and Mrs Durbeyfield the other. He had, in truth, 
drunk very little — not a fourth of the quantity which a sys- 
tematic tippler could carry to church on a Sunday afternoon 
without a hitch in his eastings or genuflections; but the 
weakness of Sir John's constitution made mountains of his 
petty sins in this kind. On reaching the fresh air he was suf- 
ficiently unsteady to incline the row of three at one moment 
as if they were marching to London, and at another as if 
they were marching to Bath — which produced a comical ef- 
fect, frequent enough in families on nocturnal homegoings; 
and, like most comical effects, not quite so comic after all. 
The two women valiantly disguised these forced excursions 
and countermarches as well as they could from Durbey- 
field, their cause, and from Abraham, and from themselves; 
and so they approached by degrees their own door, the head 
of the family bursting suddenly into his former refrain as he 
drew near, as if to fortify his soul at sight of the smallness of 
his present residence — 

'I've got a fam — ily vault at Kingsbere!' 

'Hush — don't be so silly, Jacky,' said his wife. 'Yours is 
not the only family that was of 'count in wold days. Look at 
the Anktells, and Horseys, and the Tringhams themselves — 
gone to seed a'most as much as you — though you was bigger 
folks than they, that's true. Thank God, I was never of no 
family, and have nothing to be ashamed of in that way!' 

'Don't you be so sure o' that. From you nater 'tis my be- 
lief you've disgraced yourselves more than any o' us, and 



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was kings and queens outright at one time.' 

Tess turned the subject by saying what was far more 
prominent in her own mind at the moment than thoughts 
of her ancestry — 'I am afraid father won't be able to take the 
journey with the beehives to-morrow so early' 

'I? I shall be all right in an hour or two,' said Durbey- 
field. 

It was eleven o'clock before the family were all in bed, 
and two o'clock next morning was the latest hour for start- 
ing with the beehives if they were to be delivered to the 
retailers in Casterbridge before the Saturday market began, 
the way thither lying by bad roads over a distance of be- 
tween twenty and thirty miles, and the horse and waggon 
being of the slowest. At half-past one Mrs Durbeyfield came 
into the large bedroom where Tess and all her little brothers 
and sisters slept. 

"The poor man can't go,' she said to her eldest daugh- 
ter, whose great eyes had opened the moment her mother's 
hand touched the door. 

Tess sat up in bed, lost in a vague interspace between a 
dream and this information. 

'But somebody must go,' she replied. 'It is late for the 
hives already. Swarming will soon be over for the year; and 
it we put off taking 'em till next week's market the call for 
'em will be past, and they'll be thrown on our hands.' 

Mrs Durbeyfield looked unequal to the emergency. 
'Some young feller, perhaps, would go? One of them who 
were so much after dancing with 'ee yesterday' she present- 
ly suggested. 



36 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'O no — I wouldn't have it for the world!' declared Tess 
proudly. 'And letting everybody know the reason — such a 
thing to be ashamed of! I think I could go if Abraham could 
go with me to kip me company' 

Her mother at length agreed to this arrangement. Little 
Abraham was aroused from his deep sleep in a corner of 
the same apartment, and made to put on his clothes while 
still mentally in the other world. Meanwhile Tess had hast- 
ily dressed herself; and the twain, lighting a lantern, went 
out to the stable. The rickety little waggon was already lad- 
en, and the girl led out the horse, Prince, only a degree less 
rickety than the vehicle. 

The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, 
at the lantern, at their two figures, as if he could not believe 
that at that hour, when every living thing was intended to 
be in shelter and at rest, he was called upon to go out and la- 
bour. They put a stock of candle-ends into the lantern, hung 
the latter to the off-side of the load, and directed the horse 
onward, walking at his shoulder at first during the uphill 
parts of the way, in order not to overload an animal of so 
little vigour. To cheer themselves as well as they could, they 
made an artificial morning with the lantern, some bread 
and butter, and their own conversation, the real morning 
being far from come. Abraham, as he more fully awoke (for 
he had moved in a sort of trance so far), began to talk of the 
strange shapes assumed by the various dark objects against 
the sky; of this tree that looked like a raging tiger springing 
from a lair; of that which resembled a giant's head. 

When they had passed the little town of Stourcas- 



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tie, dumbly somnolent under its thick brown thatch, they 
reached higher ground. Still higher, on their left, the eleva- 
tion called Bulbarrow, or Bealbarrow, well-nigh the highest 
in South Wessex, swelled into the sky, engirdled by its earth- 
en trenches. From hereabout the long road was fairly level 
for some distance onward. They mounted in front of the 
waggon, and Abraham grew reflective. 

'Tess!' he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence. 

'Yes, Abraham.' 

'Bain't you glad that we've become gentlefolk?' 

'Not particular glad.' 

'But you be glad that you 'm going to marry a gentle- 
man?' 

'What?' said Tess, lifting her face. 

'That our great relation will help 'ee to marry a gentle- 
man.' 

'I? Our great relation? We have no such relation. What 
has put that into your head?' 

'I heard 'em talking about it up at Rolliver's when I went 
to find father. There's a rich lady of our family out at Trant- 
ridge, and mother said that if you claimed kin with the lady, 
she'd put 'ee in the way of marrying a gentleman.' 

His sister became abruptly still, and lapsed into a pon- 
dering silence. Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure 
of utterance than for audition, so that his sister's abstrac- 
tion was of no account. He leant back against the hives, and 
with upturned face made observations on the stars, whose 
cold pulses were beating amid the black hollows above, in 
serene dissociation from these two wisps of human life. 



38 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



He asked how far away those twinklers were, and whether 
God was on the other side of them. But ever and anon his 
childish prattle recurred to what impressed his imagination 
even more deeply than the wonders of creation. If Tess were 
made rich by marrying a gentleman, would she have money 
enough to buy a spyglass so large that it would draw the 
stars as near to her as Nettlecombe-Tout? 

The renewed subject, which seemed to have impregnated 
the whole family, filled Tess with impatience. 

'Never mind that now!' she exclaimed. 

'Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?' 

'Yes.' 

All like ours?' 

'I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be 
like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid 
and sound — a few blighted.' 

'Which do we live on — a splendid one or a blighted 
one?' 

A blighted one.' 

"Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, 
when there were so many more of 'em!' 

'Yes.' 

'Is it like that REALLY, Tess?' said Abraham, turning 
to her much impressed, on reconsideration of this rare in- 
formation. 'How would it have been if we had pitched on a 
sound one?' 

'Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about 
as he does, and wouldn't have got too tipsy to go on this 
journey; and mother wouldn't have been always washing, 



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and never getting finished.' 

'And you would have been a rich lady ready-made, and 
not have had to be made rich by marrying a gentleman?' 

'O Aby, don't — don't talk of that anymore!' 

Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy. 
Tess was not skilful in the management of a horse, but she 
thought that she could take upon herself the entire conduct 
of the load for the present and allow Abraham to go to sleep 
if he wished to do so. She made him a sort of nest in front of 
the hives, in such a manner that he could not fall, and, tak- 
ing the reins into her own hands, jogged on as before. 

Prince required but slight attention, lacking energy 
for superfluous movements of any sort. With no longer a 
companion to distract her, Tess fell more deeply into rev- 
erie than ever, her back leaning against the hives. The mute 
procession past her shoulders of trees and hedges became 
attached to fantastic scenes outside reality, and the occa- 
sional heave of the wind became the sigh of some immense 
sad soul, conterminous with the universe in space, and with 
history in time. 

Then, examining the mesh of events in her own life, she 
seemed to see the vanity of her father's pride; the gentle- 
manly suitor awaiting herself in her mother's fancy; to see 
him as a grimacing personage, laughing at her poverty and 
her shrouded knightly ancestry. Everything grew more and 
more extravagant, and she no longer knew how time passed. 
A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke from 
the sleep into which she, too, had fallen. 

They were a long way further on than when she had 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



lost consciousness, and the waggon had stopped. A hollow 
groan, unlike anything she had ever heard in her life, came 
from the front, followed by a shout of 'Hoi there!' 

The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but an- 
other was shining in her face — much brighter than her own 
had been. Something terrible had happened. The harness 
was entangled with an object which blocked the way. 

In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the 
dreadful truth. The groan had proceeded from her father's 
poor horse Prince. The morning mail-cart, with its two 
noiseless wheels, speeding along these lanes like an arrow, 
as it always did, had driven into her slow and unlighted eq- 
uipage. The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast 
of the unhappy Prince like a sword, and from the wound his 
life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with a hiss 
into the road. 

In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand 
upon the hole, with the only result that she became splashed 
from face to skirt with the crimson drops. Then she stood 
helplessly looking on. Prince also stood firm and motionless 
as long as he could; till he suddenly sank down in a heap. 

By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began 
dragging and unharnessing the hot form of Prince. But he 
was already dead, and, seeing that nothing more could be 
done immediately, the mail-cart man returned to his own 
animal, which was uninjured. 

'You was on the wrong side,' he said. 'I am bound to go 
on with the mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do 
is bide here with your load. I'll send somebody to help you 



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as soon as I can. It is getting daylight, and you have noth- 
ing to fear.' 

He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and 
waited. The atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook them- 
selves in the hedges, arose, and twittered; the lane showed 
all its white features, and Tess showed hers, still whiter. 
The huge pool of blood in front of her was already assum- 
ing the iridescence of coagulation; and when the sun rose 
a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it. Prince lay 
alongside, still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole in his 
chest looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that 
had animated him. 

"Tis all my doing — all mine!' the girl cried, gazing at the 
spectacle. 'No excuse for me — none. What will mother and 
father live on now? Aby, Aby!' She shook the child, who had 
slept soundly through the whole disaster. 'We can't go on 
with our load — Prince is killed!' 

When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years 
were extemporized on his young face. 

'Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!' she went on 
to herself. 'To think that I was such a fool!' 

"Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound 
one, isn't it, Tess?' murmured Abraham through his tears. 

In silence they waited through an interval which seemed 
endless. At length a sound, and an approaching object, 
proved to them that the driver of the mail-car had been 
as good as his word. A farmer's man from near Stourcas- 
tle came up, leading a strong cob. He was harnessed to the 
waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the load tak- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



en on towards Casterbridge. 

The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach 
again the spot of the accident. Prince had lain there in the 
ditch since the morning; but the place of the blood-pool was 
still visible in the middle of the road, though scratched and 
scraped over by passing vehicles. All that was left of Prince 
was now hoisted into the waggon he had formerly hauled, 
and with his hoofs in the air, and his shoes shining in the 
setting sunlight, he retraced the eight or nine miles to Mar- 
lott. 

Tess had gone back earlier. How to break the news was 
more than she could think. It was a relief to her tongue to 
find from the faces of her parents that they already knew of 
their loss, though this did not lessen the self-reproach which 
she continued to heap upon herself for her negligence. 

But the very shiftlessness of the household rendered 
the misfortune a less terrifying one to them than it would 
have been to a thriving family, though in the present case 
it meant ruin, and in the other it would only have meant 
inconvenience. In the Durbeyfield countenances there was 
nothing of the red wrath that would have burnt upon the 
girl from parents more ambitious for her welfare. Nobody 
blamed Tess as she blamed herself. 

When it was discovered that the knacker and tanner 
would give only a very few shillings for Prince's carcase be- 
cause of his decrepitude, Durbeyfield rose to the occasion. 

'No,' said he stoically, 'I won't sell his old body. When 
we d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our 
chargers for cat's meat. Let 'em keep their shillings! He've 



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43 



served me well in his lifetime, and I won't part from him 
now.' 

He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for 
Prince in the garden than he had worked for months to grow 
a crop for his family. When the hole was ready, Durbeyfield 
and his wife tied a rope round the horse and dragged him 
up the path towards it, the children following in funeral 
train. Abraham and 'Liza-Lu sobbed, Hope and Modesty 
discharged their griefs in loud blares which echoed from 
the walls; and when Prince was tumbled in they gathered 
round the grave. The bread-winner had been taken away 
from them; what would they do? 

'Is he gone to heaven?' asked Abraham, between the 
sobs. 

Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth, and the 
children cried anew. All except Tess. Her face was dry and 
pale, as though she regarded herself in the light of a mur- 
deress. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



V 



The haggling business, which had mainly depended on 
the horse, became disorganized forthwith. Distress, if not 
penury, loomed in the distance. Durbeyfield was what was 
locally called a slack-twisted fellow; he had good strength 
to work at times; but the times could not be relied on to 
coincide with the hours of requirement; and, having been 
unaccustomed to the regular toil of the day-labourer, he was 
not particularly persistent when they did so coincide. 

Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents 
into this quagmire, was silently wondering what she could 
do to help them out of it; and then her mother broached her 
scheme. 

'We must take the ups wi' the downs, Tess,' said she; 'and 
never could your high blood have been found out at a more 
called-for moment. You must try your friends. Do ye know 
that there is a very rich Mrs d'Urberville living on the out- 
skirts o' The Chase, who must be our relation? You must go 
to her and claim kin, and ask for some help in our trouble.' 

'I shouldn't care to do that,' says Tess. 'If there is such a 
lady, 'twould be enough for us if she were friendly — not to 
expect her to give us help.' 

'You could win her round to do anything, my dear. Be- 
sides, perhaps there's more in it than you know of. I've heard 
what I've heard, good-now.' 



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The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess 
to be more deferential than she might otherwise have been 
to the maternal wish; but she could not understand why 
her mother should find such satisfaction in contemplating 
an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful profit. Her mother 
might have made inquiries, and have discovered that this 
Mrs d'Urberville was a lady of unequalled virtues and char- 
ity. But Tess's pride made the part of poor relation one of 
particular distaste to her. 

'I'd rather try to get work,' she murmured. 

'Durbeyfield, you can settle it,' said his wife, turning to 
where he sat in the background. 'If you say she ought to go, 
she will go.' 

'I don't like my children going and making themselves 
beholden to strange kin,' murmured he. 'I'm the head of the 
noblest branch o' the family, and I ought to live up to it.' 

His reasons for staying away were worse to Tess than her 
own objections to going. 'Well, as I killed the horse, moth- 
er,' she said mournfully, 'I suppose I ought to do something. 
I don't mind going and seeing her, but you must leave it to 
me about asking for help. And don't go thinking about her 
making a match for me — it is silly.' 

'Very well said, Tess!' observed her father sententiously. 

'Who said I had such a thought?' asked Joan. 

'I fancy it is in your mind, mother. But I'll go.' 

Rising early next day she walked to the hill-town called 
Shaston, and there took advantage of a van which twice 
in the week ran from Shaston eastward to Chaseborough, 
passing near Trantridge, the parish in which the vague and 



46 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



mysterious Mrs d'Urberville had her residence. 

Tess Durbeyfield 's route on this memorable morning lay 
amid the north-eastern undulations of the Vale in which 
she had been born, and in which her life had unfolded. The 
Vale of Blackmoor was to her the world, and its inhabitants 
the races thereof. From the gates and stiles of Marlott she 
had looked down its length in the wondering days of in- 
fancy, and what had been mystery to her then was not much 
less than mystery to her now. She had seen daily from her 
chamber-window towers, villages, faint white mansions; 
above all, the town of Shaston standing majestically on its 
height; its windows shining like lamps in the evening sun. 
She had hardly ever visited the place, only a small tract even 
of the Vale and its environs being known to her by close 
inspection. Much less had she been far outside the valley. 
Every contour of the surrounding hills was as personal to 
her as that of her relatives' faces; but for what lay beyond, 
her judgment was dependent on the teaching of the village 
school, where she had held a leading place at the time of her 
leaving, a year or two before this date. 

In those early days she had been much loved by oth- 
ers of her own sex and age, and had used to be seen about 
the village as one of three — all nearly of the same year — 
walking home from school side by side; Tess the middle 
one — in a pink print pinafore, of a finely reticulated pat- 
tern, worn over a stuff frock that had lost its original colour 
for a nondescript tertiary — marching on upon long stalky 
legs, in tight stockings which had little ladder-like holes at 
the knees, torn by kneeling in the roads and banks in search 



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of vegetable and mineral treasures; her then earth-coloured 
hair hanging like pot-hooks; the arms of the two outside 
girls resting round the waist of Tess; her arms on the shoul- 
ders of the two supporters. 

As Tess grew older, and began to see how matters stood, 
she felt quite a Malthusian towards her mother for thought- 
lessly giving her so many little sisters and brothers, when it 
was such a trouble to nurse and provide for them. Her moth- 
er's intelligence was that of a happy child: Joan Durbeyfield 
was simply an additional one, and that not the eldest, to her 
own long family of waiters on Providence. 

However, Tess became humanely beneficent towards the 
small ones, and to help them as much as possible she used, 
as soon as she left school, to lend a hand at haymaking or 
harvesting on neighbouring farms; or, by preference, at 
milking or butter-making processes, which she had learnt 
when her father had owned cows; and being deft-fingered it 
was a kind of work in which she excelled. 

Every day seemed to throw upon her young shoulders 
more of the family burdens, and that Tess should be the rep- 
resentative of the Durbeyfields at the d'Urberville mansion 
came as a thing of course. In this instance it must be ad- 
mitted that the Durbeyfields were putting their fairest side 
outward. 

She alighted from the van at Trantridge Cross, and as- 
cended on foot a hill in the direction of the district known 
as The Chase, on the borders of which, as she had been 
informed, Mrs d'Urberville's seat, The Slopes, would be 
found. It was not a manorial home in the ordinary sense, 



48 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



with fields, and pastures, and a grumbling farmer, out of 
whom the owner had to squeeze an income for himself and 
his family by hook or by crook. It was more, far more; a 
country-house built for enjoyment pure and simple, with 
not an acre of troublesome land attached to it beyond what 
was required for residential purposes, and for a little fancy 
farm kept in hand by the owner, and tended by a bailiff. 

The crimson brick lodge came first in sight, up to its eaves 
in dense evergreens. Tess thought this was the mansion itself 
till, passing through the side wicket with some trepidation, 
and onward to a point at which the drive took a turn, the 
house proper stood in full view. It was of recent erection — 
indeed almost new — and of the same rich red colour that 
formed such a contrast with the evergreens of the lodge. Far 
behind the corner of the house — which rose like a gerani- 
um bloom against the subdued colours around — stretched 
the soft azure landscape of The Chase — a truly venerable 
tract of forest land, one of the few remaining woodlands in 
England of undoubted primaeval date, wherein Druidical 
mistletoe was still found on aged oaks, and where enor- 
mous yew-trees, not planted by the hand of man grew as 
they had grown when they were pollarded for bows. All this 
sylvan antiquity, however, though visible from The Slopes, 
was outside the immediate boundaries of the estate. 

Everything on this snug property was bright, thriving, 
and well kept; acres of glass-houses stretched down the 
inclines to the copses at their feet. Everything looked like 
money — like the last coin issued from the Mint. The stables, 
partly screened by Austrian pines and evergreen oaks, and 



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fitted with every late appliance, were as dignified as Cha- 
pels-of-Ease. On the extensive lawn stood an ornamental 
tent, its door being towards her. 

Simple Tess Durbeyfield stood at gaze, in a half-alarmed 
attitude, on the edge of the gravel sweep. Her feet had brought 
her onward to this point before she had quite realized where 
she was; and now all was contrary to her expectation. 

'I thought we were an old family; but this is all new!' she 
said, in her artlessness. She wished that she had not fallen 
in so readily with her mother's plans for 'claiming kin,' and 
had endeavoured to gain assistance nearer home. 

The d'Urbervilles — or Stoke-d'Urbervilles, as they at 
first called themselves — who owned all this, were a some- 
what unusual family to find in such an old-fashioned part 
of the country. Parson Tringham had spoken truly when 
he said that our shambling John Durbeyfield was the only 
really lineal representative of the old d'Urberville fami- 
ly existing in the county, or near it; he might have added, 
what he knew very well, that the Stoke-d'Urbervilles were 
no more d'Urbervilles of the true tree then he was himself. 
Yet it must be admitted that this family formed a very good 
stock whereon to regraft a name which sadly wanted such 
renovation. 

When old Mr Simon Stoke, latterly deceased, had made 
his fortune as an honest merchant (some said money-lend- 
er) in the North, he decided to settle as a county man in the 
South of England, out of hail of his business district; and 
in doing this he felt the necessity of recommencing with a 
name that would not too readily identify him with the smart 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



tradesman of the past, and that would be less commonplace 
than the original bald, stark words. Conning for an hour in 
the British Museum the pages of works devoted to extinct, 
half-extinct, obscured, and ruined families appertaining to 
the quarter of England in which he proposed to settle, he 
considered that d'Urberville looked and sounded as well as 
any of them: and d'Urberville accordingly was annexed to 
his own name for himself and his heirs eternally. Yet he was 
not an extravagant-minded man in this, and in construct- 
ing his family tree on the new basis was duly reasonable in 
framing his inter-marriages and aristocratic links, never in- 
serting a single title above a rank of strict moderation. 

Of this work of imagination poor Tess and her parents 
were naturally in ignorance — much to their discomfi- 
ture; indeed, the very possibility of such annexations was 
unknown to them; who supposed that, though to be well- 
favoured might be the gift of fortune, a family name came 
by nature. 

Tess still stood hesitating like a bather about to make his 
plunge, hardly knowing whether to retreat or to persevere, 
when a figure came forth from the dark triangular door of 
the tent. It was that of a tall young man, smoking. 

He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips, 
badly moulded, though red and smooth, above which was a 
well-groomed black moustache with curled points, though 
his age could not be more than threeor four-and-twenty 
Despite the touches of barbarism in his contours, there was 
a singular force in the gentleman's face, and in his bold roll- 
ing eye. 



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'Well, my Beauty, what can I do for you?' said he, coming 
forward. And perceiving that she stood quite confounded: 
'Never mind me. I am Mr d'Urberville. Have you come to 
see me or my mother?' 

This embodiment of a d'Urberville and a namesake dif- 
fered even more from what Tess had expected than the house 
and grounds had differed. She had dreamed of an aged and 
dignified face, the sublimation of all the d'Urberville lin- 
eaments, furrowed with incarnate memories representing 
in hieroglyphic the centuries of her family's and England's 
history. But she screwed herself up to the work in hand, 
since she could not get out of it, and answered — 

'I came to see your mother, sir.' 

'I am afraid you cannot see her — she is an invalid,' re- 
plied the present representative of the spurious house; for 
this was Mr Alec, the only son of the lately deceased gentle- 
man. 'Cannot I answer your purpose? What is the business 
you wish to see her about?' 

'It isn't business — it is — I can hardly say what!' 

'Pleasure?' 

'Oh no. Why, sir, if I tell you, it will seem — ' 

Tess's sense of a certain ludicrousness in her errand was 
now so strong that, notwithstanding her awe of him, and 
her general discomfort at being here, her rosy lips curved 
towards a smile, much to the attraction of the swarthy Al- 
exander. 

'It is so very foolish,' she stammered; 'I fear can't tell 



you! 



'Never mind; I like foolish things. Try again, my dear,' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



said he kindly. 

'Mother asked me to come,' Tess continued; 'and, indeed, 
I was in the mind to do so myself likewise. But I did not 
think it would be like this. I came, sir, to tell you that we are 
of the same family as you.' 

'Ho! Poor relations?' 

'Yes.' 

'Stokes?' 

'No; d'Urbervilles.' 

Ay, ay; I mean d'Urbervilles.' 

'Our names are worn away to Durbeyfield; but we have 
several proofs that we are d'Urbervilles. Antiquarians hold 
we are, — and — and we have an old seal, marked with a 
ramping lion on a shield, and a castle over him. And we 
have a very old silver spoon, round in the bowl like a little 
ladle, and marked with the same castle. But it is so worn 
that mother uses it to stir the pea-soup.' 

A castle argent is certainly my crest,' said he blandly. 
And my arms a lion rampant.' 

And so mother said we ought to make ourselves be- 
known to you — as we've lost our horse by a bad accident, 
and are the oldest branch o' the family.' 

"Very kind of your mother, I'm sure. And I, for one, don't 
regret her step.' Alec looked at Tess as he spoke, in a way 
that made her blush a little. And so, my pretty girl, you've 
come on a friendly visit to us, as relations?' 

'I suppose I have,' faltered Tess, looking uncomfortable 
again. 

'Well — there's no harm in it. Where do you live? What 



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are you? 

She gave him brief particulars; and responding to fur- 
ther inquiries told him that she was intending to go back by 
the same carrier who had brought her. 

'It is a long while before he returns past Trantridge Cross. 
Supposing we walk round the grounds to pass the time, my 
pretty Coz?' 

Tess wished to abridge her visit as much as possible; but 
the young man was pressing, and she consented to accompa- 
ny him. He conducted her about the lawns, and flower-beds, 
and conservatories; and thence to the fruit-garden and 
greenhouses, where he asked her if she liked strawberries. 

'Yes,' said Tess, 'when they come.' 

'They are already here.' D'Urberville began gathering 
specimens of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as 
he stooped; and, presently, selecting a specially fine product 
of the 'British Queen' variety, he stood up and held it by the 
stem to her mouth. 

'No — no!' she said quickly, putting her fingers between 
his hand and her lips. 'I would rather take it in my own 
hand.' 

'Nonsense!' he insisted; and in a slight distress she part- 
ed her lips and took it in. 

They had spent some time wandering desultorily thus, 
Tess eating in a half-pleased, half-reluctant state whatever 
d'Urberville offered her. When she could consume no more 
of the strawberries he filled her little basket with them; and 
then the two passed round to the rose-trees, whence he gath- 
ered blossoms and gave her to put in her bosom. She obeyed 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



like one in a dream, and when she could affix no more he 
himself tucked a bud or two into her hat, and heaped her 
basket with others in the prodigality of his bounty. At last, 
looking at his watch, he said, 'Now, by the time you have 
had something to eat, it will be time for you to leave, if you 
want to catch the carrier to Shaston. Come here, and I'll see 
what grub I can find.' 

Stoke d'Urberville took her back to the lawn and into 
the tent, where he left her, soon reappearing with a basket 
of light luncheon, which he put before her himself. It was 
evidently the gentleman's wish not to be disturbed in this 
pleasant tete-a-tete by the servantry 

'Do you mind my smoking?' he asked. 

'Oh, not at all, sir.' 

He watched her pretty and unconscious munching 
through the skeins of smoke that pervaded the tent, and 
Tess Durbeyfield did not divine, as she innocently looked 
down at the roses in her bosom, that there behind the blue 
narcotic haze was potentially the 'tragic mischief of her 
drama — one who stood fair to be the blood-red ray in the 
spectrum of her young life. She had an attribute which 
amounted to a disadvantage just now; and it was this that 
caused Alec d'Urbervilles eyes to rivet themselves upon 
her. It was a luxuriance of aspect, a fulness of growth, which 
made her appear more of a woman than she really was. She 
had inherited the feature from her mother without the qual- 
ity it denoted. It had troubled her mind occasionally, till her 
companions had said that it was a fault which time would 
cure. 



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She soon had finished her lunch. 'Now I am going home, 
sir,' she said, rising. 

'And what do they call you?' he asked, as he accompanied 
her along the drive till they were out of sight of the house. 

'Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott.' 

'And you say your people have lost their horse?' 

'I — killed him!' she answered, her eyes filling with tears 
as she gave particulars of Prince's death. And I don't know 
what to do for father on account of it!' 

'I must think if I cannot do something. My mother 
must find a berth for you. But, Tess, no nonsense about 
'd'Urberville'; — 'Durbeyfield' only, you know — quite an- 
other name.' 

'I wish for no better, sir,' said she with something of dig- 
nity. 

For a moment — only for a moment — when they were in 
the turning of the drive, between the tall rhododendrons 
and conifers, before the lodge became visible, he inclined 
his face towards her as if — but, no: he thought better of it, 
and let her go. 

Thus the thing began. Had she perceived this meeting's 
import she might have asked why she was doomed to be 
seen and coveted that day by the wrong man, and not by 
some other man, the right and desired one in all respects — 
as nearly as humanity can supply the right and desired; yet 
to him who amongst her acquaintance might have approxi- 
mated to this kind, she was but a transient impression, half 
forgotten. 

In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of 



•;6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



things the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love 
rarely coincides with the hour for loving. Nature does not 
often say 'See!' to her poor creature at a time when seeing 
can lead to happy doing; or reply 'Here!' to a body's cry of 
'Where?' till the hide-and-seek has become an irksome, 
outworn game. We may wonder whether at the acme and 
summit of the human progress these anachronisms will 
be corrected by a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the 
social machinery than that which now jolts us round and 
along; but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or 
even conceived as possible. Enough that in the present case, 
as in millions, it was not the two halves of a perfect whole 
that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing 
counterpart wandered independently about the earth wait- 
ing in crass obtuseness till the late time came. Out of which 
maladroit delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, 
catastrophes, and passing-strange destinies. 

When d'Urberville got back to the tent he sat down 
astride on a chair, reflecting, with a pleased gleam in his 
face. Then he broke into a loud laugh. 

'Well, I'm damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha! And 
what a crumby girl!' 



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VI 



Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and inat- 
tentively waited to take her seat in the van returning from 
Chaseborough to Shaston. She did not know what the other 
occupants said to her as she entered, though she answered 
them; and when they had started anew she rode along with 
an inward and not an outward eye. 

One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more 
pointedly than any had spoken before: 'Why, you be quite a 
posy! And such roses in early June!' 

Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented 
to their surprised vision: roses at her breasts; roses in her 
hat; roses and strawberries in her basket to the brim. She 
blushed, and said confusedly that the flowers had been 
given to her. When the passengers were not looking she 
stealthily removed the more prominent blooms from her 
hat and placed them in the basket, where she covered them 
with her handkerchief. Then she fell to reflecting again, and 
in looking downwards a thorn of the rose remaining in her 
breast accidentally pricked her chin. Like all the cottagers 
in Blackmoor Vale, Tess was steeped in fancies and prefigu- 
rative superstitions; she thought this an ill omen — the first 
she had noticed that day. 

The van travelled only so far as Shaston, and there were 
several miles of pedestrian descent from that mOUntain- 



SS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



town into the vale to Marlott. Her mother had advised her 
to stay here for the night, at the house of a cottage-woman 
they knew, if she should feel too tired to come on; and this 
Tess did, not descending to her home till the following af- 
ternoon. 

When she entered the house she perceived in a moment 
from her mother's triumphant manner that something had 
occurred in the interim. 

'Oh yes; I know all about it! I told 'ee it would be all right, 
and now 'tis proved!' 

'Since I've been away? What has?' said Tess rather wea- 
rily. 

Her mother surveyed the girl up and down with arch 
approval, and went on banteringly: 'So you've brought 'em 
round!' 

'How do you know, mother?' 

'I've had a letter.' 

Tess then remembered that there would have been time 
for this. 

'They say — Mrs d'Urberville says — that she wants you 
to look after a little fowl-farm which is her hobby. But this 
is only her artful way of getting 'ee there without raising 
your hopes. She's going to own 'ee as kin — that's the mean- 
ing o't.' 

'But I didn't see her.' 

'You zid somebody, I suppose?' 

'I saw her son.' 

'And did he own 'ee?' 

'Well — he called me Coz.' 



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'An' I knew it! Jacky — he called her Coz!' cried Joan to 
her husband. 'Well, he spoke to his mother, of course, and 
she do want 'ee there.' 

'But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls,' said the 
dubious Tess. 

'Then I don't know who is apt. You've be'n born in the 
business, and brought up in it. They that be born in a busi- 
ness always know more about it than any 'prentice. Besides, 
that's only just a show of something for you to do, that you 
midn't feel beholden.' 

T don't altogether think I ought to go,' said Tess thought- 
fully. 'Who wrote the letter? Will you let me look at it?' 

'Mrs d'Urberville wrote it. Here it is.' 

The letter was in the third person, and briefly informed 
Mrs Durbeyfield that her daughter's services would be use- 
ful to that lady in the management of her poultry-farm, that 
a comfortable room would be provided for her if she could 
come, and that the wages would be on a liberal scale if they 
liked her. 

'Oh — that's all!' said Tess. 

'You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee, an' 
to kiss and to coll 'ee all at once.' 

Tess looked out of the window. 

1 would rather stay here with father and you,' she said. 

'But why?' 

'I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite 
know why' 

A week afterwards she came in one evening from an un- 
availing search for some light occupation in the immediate 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



neighbourhood. Her idea had been to get together suffi- 
cient money during the summer to purchase another horse. 
Hardly had she crossed the threshold before one of the chil- 
dren danced across the room, saying, "The gentleman's been 
here!' 

Her mother hastened to explain, smiles breaking from 
every inch of her person. Mrs d'Urberville 's son had called 
on horseback, having been riding by chance in the direc- 
tion of Marlott. He had wished to know, finally, in the 
name of his mother, if Tess could really come to manage 
the old lady's fowl-farm or not; the lad who had hitherto 
superintended the birds having proved untrustworthy. 'Mr 
d'Urberville says you must be a good girl if you are at all 
as you appear; he knows you must be worth your weight in 
gold. He is very much interested in 'ee — truth to tell.' 

Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that 
she had won such high opinion from a stranger when, in her 
own esteem, she had sunk so low. 

'It is very good of him to think that,' she murmured; 'and 
if I was quite sure how it would be living there, I would go 
any-when.' 

'He is a mighty handsome man!' 

T don't think so,' said Tess coldly. 

'Well, there's your chance, whether or no; and I'm sure he 
wears a beautiful diamond ring!' 

'Yes,' said little Abraham, brightly, from the window- 
bench; 'and I seed it! and it did twinkle when he put his 
hand up to his mistarshers. Mother, why did our grand rela- 
tion keep on putting his hand up to his mistarshers?' 



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'Hark at that child!' cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with paren- 
thetic admiration. 

'Perhaps to show his diamond ring,' murmured Sir John, 
dreamily, from his chair. 

'I'll think it over,' said Tess, leaving the room. 

'Well, she's made a conquest o' the younger branch of 
us, straight off,' continued the matron to her husband, 'and 
she's a fool if she don't follow it up.' 

'I don't quite like my children going away from home,' 
said the haggler. 'As the head of the family, the rest ought 
to come to me.' 

'But do let her go, Jacky' coaxed his poor witless wife. 
'He's struck wi' her — you can see that. He called her Coz! 
He'll marry her, most likely, and make a lady of her; and 
then she'll be what her forefathers was.' 

John Durbeyfield had more conceit than energy or 
health, and this supposition was pleasant to him. 

'Well, perhaps that's what young Mr d'Urberville means,' 
he admitted; 'and sure enough he mid have serious thoughts 
about improving his blood by linking on to the old line. 
Tess, the little rogue! And have she really paid 'em a visit to 
such an end as this?' 

Meanwhile Tess was walking thoughtfully among the 
gooseberry-bushes in the garden, and over Prince's grave. 
When she came in her mother pursued her advantage. 

Well, what be you going to do?' she asked. 

'I wish I had seen Mrs d'Urberville,' said Tess. 

'I think you mid as well settle it. Then you'll see her soon 
enough.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Her father coughed in his chair. 

'I don't know what to say!' answered the girl restlessly. 
'It is for you to decide. I killed the old horse, and I suppose 
I ought to do something to get ye a new one. But — but — I 
don't quite like Mr d'Urberville being there!' 

The children, who had made use of this idea of Tess being 
taken up by their wealthy kinsfolk (which they imagined 
the other family to be) as a species of dolorifuge after the 
death of the horse, began to cry at Tess's reluctance, and 
teased and reproached her for hesitating. 

'Tess won't go-o-o and be made a la-a-dy of! — no, she 
says she wo-o-on't!' they wailed, with square mouths. And 
we shan't have a nice new horse, and lots o' golden money 
to buy fairlings! And Tess won't look pretty in her best cloze 
no mo-o-ore!' 

Her mother chimed in to the same tune: a certain way 
she had of making her labours in the house seem heavi- 
er than they were by prolonging them indefinitely, also 
weighed in the argument. Her father alone preserved an at- 
titude of neutrality. 

'I will go,' said Tess at last. 

Her mother could not repress her consciousness of the 
nuptial vision conjured up by the girl's consent. 

'That's right! For such a pretty maid as 'tis, this is a fine 
chance!' 

Tess smiled crossly. 

'I hope it is a chance for earning money. It is no other 
kind of chance. You had better say nothing of that silly sort 
about parish.' 



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6} 



Mrs Durbeyfield did not promise. She was not quite sure 
that she did not feel proud enough, after the visitor's re- 
marks, to say a good deal. 

Thus it was arranged; and the young girl wrote, agree- 
ing to be ready to set out on any day on which she might be 
required. She was duly informed that Mrs d'Urberville was 
glad of her decision, and that a spring-cart should be sent to 
meet her and her luggage at the top of the Vale on the day 
after the morrow, when she must hold herself prepared to 
start. Mrs d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather mas- 
culine. 

'A cart?' murmured Joan Durbeyfield doubtingly. 'It 
might have been a carriage for her own kin!' 

Having at last taken her course Tess was less restless 
and abstracted, going about her business with some self-as- 
surance in the thought of acquiring another horse for her 
father by an occupation which would not be onerous. She 
had hoped to be a teacher at the school, but the fates seemed 
to decide otherwise. Being mentally older than her moth- 
er she did not regard Mrs Durbeyfield's matrimonial hopes 
for her in a serious aspect for a moment. The light-minded 
woman had been discovering good matches for her daugh- 
ter almost from the year of her birth. 



64 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



VII 



On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was 
awake before dawn — at the marginal minute of the dark 
when the grove is still mute, save for one prophetic bird 
who sings with a clear-voiced conviction that he at least 
knows the correct time of day, the rest preserving silence 
as if equally convinced that he is mistaken. She remained 
upstairs packing till breakfast-time, and then came down 
in her ordinary week-day clothes, her Sunday apparel being 
carefully folded in her box. 

Her mother expostulated. 'You will never set out to see 
your folks without dressing up more the dand than that?' 

'But I am going to work!' said Tess. 

'Well, yes,' said Mrs Durbeyfield; and in a private tone, 
'at first there mid be a little pretence o't ... But I think it will 
be wiser of 'ee to put your best side outward,' she added. 

'Very well; I suppose you know best,' replied Tess with 
calm abandonment. 

And to please her parent the girl put herself quite in 
Joan's hands, saying serenely — 'Do what you like with me, 
mother.' 

Mrs Durbeyfield was only too delighted at this tractabil- 
ity. First she fetched a great basin, and washed Tess's hair 
with such thoroughness that when dried and brushed it 
looked twice as much as at other times. She tied it with a 



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65 



broader pink ribbon than usual. Then she put upon her the 
white frock that Tess had worn at the club-walking, the airy 
fulness of which, supplementing her enlarged coiffure, im- 
parted to her developing figure an amplitude which belied 
her age, and might cause her to be estimated as a woman 
when she was not much more than a child. 

'I declare there's a hole in my stocking-heel!' said Tess. 

'Never mind holes in your stockings — they don't speak! 
When I was a maid, so long as I had a pretty bonnet the 
devil might ha' found me in heels.' 

Her mother's pride in the girl's appearance led her to 
step back, like a painter from his easel, and survey her work 
as a whole. 

'You must zee yourself!' she cried. 'It is much better than 
you was t'other day' 

As the looking-glass was only large enough to reflect a 
very small portion of Tess's person at one time, Mrs Dur- 
beyfield hung a black cloak outside the casement, and so 
made a large reflector of the panes, as it is the wont of be- 
decking cottagers to do. After this she went downstairs to 
her husband, who was sitting in the lower room. 

'I'll tell 'ee what 'tis, Durbeyfield,' said she exultingly; 
'he'll never have the heart not to love her. But whatever you 
do, don't zay too much to Tess of his fancy for her, and this 
chance she has got. She is such an odd maid that it mid zet 
her against him, or against going there, even now. If all goes 
well, I shall certainly be for making some return to pa'son at 
Stagfoot Lane for telling us — dear, good man!' 

However, as the moment for the girl's setting out drew 



66 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



nigh, when the first excitement of the dressing had passed 
off, a slight misgiving found place in Joan Durbeyfield's 
mind. It prompted the matron to say that she would walk 
a little way — as far as to the point where the acclivity from 
the valley began its first steep ascent to the outer world. At 
the top Tess was going to be met with the spring-cart sent 
by the Stoke-d'Urbervilles, and her box had already been 
wheeled ahead towards this summit by a lad with trucks, to 
be in readiness. 

Seeing their mother put on her bonnet, the younger chil- 
dren clamoured to go with her. 

'I do want to walk a little-ways wi' Sissy, now she's going 
to marry our gentleman-cousin, and wear fine cloze!' 

'Now,' said Tess, flushing and turning quickly, 'I'll hear 
no more o' that! Mother, how could you ever put such stuff 
into their heads?' 

'Going to work, my dears, for our rich relation, and help 
get enough money for a new horse,' said Mrs Durbeyfield 
pacifically. 

'Goodbye, father,' said Tess, with a lumpy throat. 

'Goodbye, my maid,' said Sir John, raising his head from 
his breast as he suspended his nap, induced by a slight ex- 
cess this morning in honour of the occasion. 'Well, I hope 
my young friend will like such a comely sample of his own 
blood. And tell'n, Tess, that being sunk, quite, from our for- 
mer grandeur, I'll sell him the title — yes, sell it — and at no 
onreasonable figure.' 

'Not for less than a thousand pound!' cried Lady Dur- 
beyfield. 



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67 



'Tell'n — I'll take a thousand pound. Well, I'll take less, 
when I come to think o't. He'll adorn it better than a poor 
lammicken feller like myself can. Tell'n he shall hae it for a 
hundred. But I won't stand upon trifles — tell'n he shall hae 
it for fifty — for twenty pound! Yes, twenty pound — that's 
the lowest. Dammy, family honour is family honour, and I 
won't take a penny less!' 

Tess's eyes were too full and her voice too choked to ut- 
ter the sentiments that were in her. She turned quickly, and 
went out. 

So the girls and their mother all walked together, a child 
on each side of Tess, holding her hand and looking at her 
meditatively from time to time, as at one who was about 
to do great things; her mother just behind with the small- 
est; the group forming a picture of honest beauty flanked by 
innocence, and backed by simple-souled vanity. They fol- 
lowed the way till they reached the beginning of the ascent, 
on the crest of which the vehicle from Trantridge was to re- 
ceive her, this limit having been fixed to save the horse the 
labour of the last slope. Far away behind the first hills the 
cliff-like dwellings of Shaston broke the line of the ridge. 
Nobody was visible in the elevated road which skirted the 
ascent save the lad whom they had sent on before them, sit- 
ting on the handle of the barrow that contained all Tess's 
worldly possessions. 

'Bide here a bit, and the cart will soon come, no doubt,' 
said Mrs Durbeyfield. 'Yes, I see it yonder!' 

It had come — appearing suddenly from behind the fore- 
head of the nearest upland, and stopping beside the boy 



68 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



with the barrow. Her mother and the children thereupon 
decided to go no farther, and bidding them a hasty goodbye, 
Tess bent her steps up the hill. 

They saw her white shape draw near to the spring-cart, 
on which her box was already placed. But before she had 
quite reached it another vehicle shot out from a clump of 
trees on the summit, came round the bend of the road there, 
passed the luggage-cart, and halted beside Tess, who looked 
up as if in great surprise. 

Her mother perceived, for the first time, that the sec- 
ond vehicle was not a humble conveyance like the first, 
but a spick-and-span gig or dog-cart, highly varnished and 
equipped. The driver was a young man of threeor four-and- 
twenty, with a cigar between his teeth; wearing a dandy 
cap, drab jacket, breeches of the same hue, white neckcloth, 
stick-up collar, and brown driving-gloves — in short, he was 
the handsome, horsey young buck who had visited Joan a 
week or two before to get her answer about Tess. 

Mrs Durbeyfield clapped her hands like a child. Then she 
looked down, then stared again. Could she be deceived as to 
the meaning of this? 

'Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make Sissy a lady?' 
asked the youngest child. 

Meanwhile the muslined form of Tess could be seen 
standing still, undecided, beside this turn-out, whose own- 
er was talking to her. Her seeming indecision was, in fact, 
more than indecision: it was misgiving. She would have pre- 
ferred the humble cart. The young man dismounted, and 
appeared to urge her to ascend. She turned her face down 



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69 



the hill to her relatives, and regarded the little group. Some- 
thing seemed to quicken her to a determination; possibly 
the thought that she had killed Prince. She suddenly stepped 
up; he mounted beside her, and immediately whipped on 
the horse. In a moment they had passed the slow cart with 
the box, and disappeared behind the shoulder of the hill. 

Directly Tess was out of sight, and the interest of the 
matter as a drama was at an end, the little ones' eyes filled 
with tears. The youngest child said, 'I wish poor, poor Tess 
wasn't gone away to be a lady!' and, lowering the corners of 
his lips, burst out crying. The new point of view was infec- 
tious, and the next child did likewise, and then the next, till 
the whole three of them wailed loud. 

There were tears also in Joan Durbeyfield's eyes as she 
turned to go home. But by the time she had got back to the 
village she was passively trusting to the favour of accident. 
However, in bed that night she sighed, and her husband 
asked her what was the matter. 

'Oh, I don't know exactly,' she said. 'I was thinking that 
perhaps it would ha' been better if Tess had not gone.' 

'Oughtn't ye to have thought of that before?' 

'Well, 'tis a chance for the maid — Still, if 'twere the doing 
again, I wouldn't let her go till I had found out whether the 
gentleman is really a good-hearted young man and choice 
over her as his kinswoman.' 

'Yes, you ought, perhaps, to ha' done that,' snored Sir 
John. 

Joan Durbeyfield always managed to find consolation 
somewhere: 'Well, as one of the genuine stock, she ought to 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



make her way with 'en, if she plays her trump card aright. 
And if he don't marry her afore he will after. For that he's all 
afire wi' love for her any eye can see.' 

'What's her trump card? Her d'Urberville blood, you 
mean?' 

'No, stupid; her face — as 'twas mine.' 



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VIII 



Having mounted beside her, Alec d'Urberville drove rap- 
idly along the crest of the first hill, chatting compliments 
to Tess as they went, the cart with her box being left far be- 
hind. Rising still, an immense landscape stretched around 
them on every side; behind, the green valley of her birth, 
before, a gray country of which she knew nothing except 
from her first brief visit to Trantridge. Thus they reached 
the verge of an incline down which the road stretched in a 
long straight descent of nearly a mile. 

Ever since the accident with her father's horse Tess 
Durbeyfield, courageous as she naturally was, had been ex- 
ceedingly timid on wheels; the least irregularity of motion 
startled her. She began to get uneasy at a certain reckless- 
ness in her conductor's driving. 

'You will go down slow, sir, I suppose?' she said with at- 
tempted unconcern. 

D'Urberville looked round upon her, nipped his cigar 
with the tips of his large white centre-teeth, and allowed his 
lips to smile slowly of themselves. 

'Why, Tess,' he answered, after another whiff or two, 'it 
isn't a brave bouncing girl like you who asks that? Why, I 
always go down at full gallop. There's nothing like it for 
raising your spirits.' 

'But perhaps you need not now?' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'Ah,' he said, shaking his head, 'there are two to be reck- 
oned with. It is not me alone. Tib has to be considered, and 
she has a very queer temper.' 

'Who?' 

'Why, this mare. I fancy she looked round at me in a very 
grim way just then. Didn't you notice it?' 

'Don't try to frighten me, sir,' said Tess stiffly. 

'Well, I don't. If any living man can manage this horse 
I can: I won't say any living man can do it — but if such has 
the power, I am he.' 

'Why do you have such a horse?' 

Ah, well may you ask it! It was my fate, I suppose. Tib has 
killed one chap; and just after I bought her she nearly killed 
me. And then, take my word for it, I nearly killed her. But 
she's touchy still, very touchy; and one's life is hardly safe 
behind her sometimes.' 

They were just beginning to descend; and it was evident 
that the horse, whether of her own will or of his (the latter 
being the more likely), knew so well the reckless perfor- 
mance expected of her that she hardly required a hint from 
behind. 

Down, down, they sped, the wheels humming like a 
top, the dog-cart rocking right and left, its axis acquiring 
a slightly oblique set in relation to the line of progress; the 
figure of the horse rising and falling in undulations before 
them. Sometimes a wheel was off the ground, it seemed, for 
many yards; sometimes a stone was sent spinning over the 
hedge, and flinty sparks from the horse's hoofs outshone the 
daylight. The aspect of the straight road enlarged with their 



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advance, the two banks dividing like a splitting stick; one 
rushing past at each shoulder. 

The wind blew through Tess's white muslin to her very 
skin, and her washed hair flew out behind. She was deter- 
mined to show no open fear, but she clutched d'Urberville's 
rein-arm. 

'Don't touch my arm! We shall be thrown out if you do! 
Hold on round my waist!' 

She grasped his waist, and so they reached the bottom. 

'Safe, thank God, in spite of your fooling!' said she, her 
face on fire. 

'Tess — fie! that's temper!' said d'Urberville. 

"Tis truth.' 

'Well, you need not let go your hold of me so thanklessly 
the moment you feel yourself our of danger.' 

She had not considered what she had been doing; wheth- 
er he were man or woman, stick or stone, in her involuntary 
hold on him. Recovering her reserve, she sat without reply- 
ing, and thus they reached the summit of another declivity. 

'Now then, again!' said d'Urberville. 

'No, no!' said Tess. 'Show more sense, do, please.' 

'But when people find themselves on one of the highest 
points in the county, they must get down again,' he retort- 
ed. 

He loosened rein, and away they went a second time. 
D'Urberville turned his face to her as they rocked, and said, 
in playful raillery: 'Now then, put your arms round my 
waist again, as you did before, my Beauty' 

'Never!' said Tess independently, holding on as well as 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



she could without touching him. 

'Let me put one little kiss on those holmberry lips, Tess, 
or even on that warmed cheek, and I'll stop — on my hon- 
our, I will!' 

Tess, surprised beyond measure, slid farther back still on 
her seat, at which he urged the horse anew, and rocked her 
the more. 

'Will nothing else do?' she cried at length, in desperation, 
her large eyes staring at him like those of a wild animal. 
This dressing her up so prettily by her mother had appar- 
ently been to lamentable purpose. 

'Nothing, dear Tess,' he replied. 

'Oh, I don't know — very well; I don't mind!' she panted 
miserably. 

He drew rein, and as they slowed he was on the point of 
imprinting the desired salute, when, as if hardly yet aware 
of her own modesty, she dodged aside. His arms being oc- 
cupied with the reins there was left him no power to prevent 
her manoeuvre. 

'Now, damn it — I'll break both our necks!' swore her ca- 
priciously passionate companion. 'So you can go from your 
word like that, you young witch, can you?' 

'Very well,' said Tess, 'I'll not move since you be so de- 
termined! But I — thought you would be kind to me, and 
protect me, as my kinsman!' 

'Kinsman be hanged! Now!' 

'But I don't want anybody to kiss me, sir!' she implored, 
a big tear beginning to roll down her face, and the corners 
of her mouth trembling in her attempts not to cry. 'And I 



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wouldn't ha' come if I had known!' 

He was inexorable, and she sat still, and d'Urberville gave 
her the kiss of mastery. No sooner had he done so than she 
flushed with shame, took out her handkerchief, and wiped 
the spot on her cheek that had been touched by his lips. His 
ardour was nettled at the sight, for the act on her part had 
been unconsciously done. 

'You are mighty sensitive for a cottage girl!' said the 
young man. 

Tess made no reply to this remark, of which, indeed, she 
did not quite comprehend the drift, unheeding the snub she 
had administered by her instinctive rub upon her cheek. 
She had, in fact, undone the kiss, as far as such a thing was 
physically possible. With a dim sense that he was vexed 
she looked steadily ahead as they trotted on near Melbury 
Down and Wingreen, till she saw, to her consternation, that 
there was yet another descent to be undergone. 

'You shall be made sorry for that!' he resumed, his in- 
jured tone still remaining, as he flourished the whip anew. 
'Unless, that is, you agree willingly to let me do it again, and 
no handkerchief 

She sighed. "Very well, sir!' she said. 'Oh — let me get my 
hat!' 

At the moment of speaking her hat had blown off into the 
road, their present speed on the upland being by no means 
slow. D'Urberville pulled up, and said he would get it for 
her, but Tess was down on the other side. 

She turned back and picked up the article. 

'You look prettier with it off, upon my soul, if that's possi- 



76 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ble,' he said, contemplating her over the back of the vehicle. 
'Now then, up again! What's the matter?' 

The hat was in place and tied, but Tess had not stepped 
forward. 

'No, sir,' she said, revealing the red and ivory of her 
mouth as her eye lit in defiant triumph; 'not again, if I know 
it!' 

'What — you won't get up beside me?' 

'No; I shall walk.' 

"Tis five or six miles yet to Trantridge.' 

'I don't care if 'tis dozens. Besides, the cart is behind.' 

'You artful hussy! Now, tell me — didn't you make that 
hat blow off on purpose? I'll swear you did!' 

Her strategic silence confirmed his suspicion. 

Then d'Urberville cursed and swore at her, and called 
her everything he could think of for the trick. Turning the 
horse suddenly he tried to drive back upon her, and so hem 
her in between the gig and the hedge. But he could not do 
this short of injuring her. 

'You ought to be ashamed of yourself for using such 
wicked words!' cried Tess with spirit, from the top of the 
hedge into which she had scrambled. 'I don't like 'ee at all! I 
hate and detest you! I'll go back to mother, I will!' 

D'Urberville 's bad temper cleared up at sight of hers; and 
he laughed heartily. 

'Well, I like you all the better,' he said. 'Come, let there 
be peace. I'll never do it any more against your will. My life 
upon it now!' 

Still Tess could not be induced to remount. She did not, 



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however, object to his keeping his gig alongside her; and 
in this manner, at a slow pace, they advanced towards the 
village of Trantridge. From time to time d'Urberville ex- 
hibited a sort of fierce distress at the sight of the tramping 
he had driven her to undertake by his misdemeanour. She 
might in truth have safely trusted him now; but he had 
forfeited her confidence for the time, and she kept on the 
ground progressing thoughtfully, as if wondering whether 
it would be wiser to return home. Her resolve, however, had 
been taken, and it seemed vacillating even to childishness 
to abandon it now, unless for graver reasons. How could she 
face her parents, get back her box, and disconcert the whole 
scheme for the rehabilitation of her family on such senti- 
mental grounds? 

A few minutes later the chimneys of The Slopes appeared 
in view, and in a snug nook to the right the poultry-farm 
and cottage of Tess' destination. 



78 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



IX 



The community of fowls to which Tess had been appoint- 
ed as supervisor, purveyor, nurse, surgeon, and friend made 
its headquarters in an old thatched cottage standing in an 
enclosure that had once been a garden, but was now a tram- 
pled and sanded square. The house was overrun with ivy, 
its chimney being enlarged by the boughs of the parasite 
to the aspect of a ruined tower. The lower rooms were en- 
tirely given over to the birds, who walked about them with a 
proprietary air, as though the place had been built by them- 
selves, and not by certain dusty copyholders who now lay 
east and west in the churchyard. The descendants of these 
bygone owners felt it almost as a slight to their family when 
the house which had so much of their affection, had cost 
so much of their forefathers' money, and had been in their 
possession for several generations before the d'Urbervilles 
came and built here, was indifferently turned into a fowl- 
house by Mrs Stoke-d'Urberville as soon as the property fell 
into hand according to law. "Twas good enough for Chris- 
tians in grandfather's time,' they said. 

The rooms wherein dozens of infants had wailed at their 
nursing now resounded with the tapping of nascent chicks. 
Distracted hens in coops occupied spots where formerly 
stood chairs supporting sedate agriculturists. The chim- 
ney-corner and once-blazing hearth was now filled with 



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inverted beehives, in which the hens laid their eggs; while 
out of doors the plots that each succeeding householder had 
carefully shaped with his spade were torn by the cocks in 
wildest fashion. 

The garden in which the cottage stood was surrounded 
by a wall, and could only be entered through a door. 

When Tess had occupied herself about an hour the next 
morning in altering and improving the arrangements, ac- 
cording to her skilled ideas as the daughter of a professed 
poulterer, the door in the wall opened and a servant in 
white cap and apron entered. She had come from the man- 
or-house. 

'Mrs d'Urberville wants the fowls as usual,' she said; 
but perceiving that Tess did not quite understand, she ex- 
plained, 'Mis'ess is a old lady, and blind.' 

'Blind!' said Tess. 

Almost before her misgiving at the news could find time 
to shape itself she took, under her companion's direction, 
two of the most beautiful of the Hamburghs in her arms, 
and followed the maid-servant, who had likewise taken 
two, to the adjacent mansion, which, though ornate and 
imposing, showed traces everywhere on this side that some 
occupant of its chambers could bend to the love of dumb 
creatures — feathers floating within view of the front, and 
hen-coops standing on the grass. 

In a sitting-room on the ground-floor, ensconced in an 
armchair with her back to the light, was the owner and mis- 
tress of the estate, a white-haired woman of not more than 
sixty, or even less, wearing a large cap. She had the mobile 



so 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



face frequent in those whose sight has decayed by stages, has 
been laboriously striven after, and reluctantly let go, rather 
than the stagnant mien apparent in persons long sightless 
or born blind. Tess walked up to this lady with her feathered 
charges — one sitting on each arm. 

'Ah, you are the young woman come to look after my 
birds?' said Mrs d'Urberville, recognizing a new footstep. 
'I hope you will be kind to them. My bailiff tells me you are 
quite the proper person. Well, where are they? Ah, this is 
Strut! But he is hardly so lively to-day, is he? He is alarmed 
at being handled by a stranger, I suppose. And Phena too — 
yes, they are a little frightened — aren't you, dears? But they 
will soon get used to you.' 

While the old lady had been speaking Tess and the oth- 
er maid, in obedience to her gestures, had placed the fowls 
severally in her lap, and she had felt them over from head to 
tail, examining their beaks, their combs, the manes of the 
cocks, their wings, and their claws. Her touch enabled her 
to recognize them in a moment, and to discover if a single 
feather were crippled or draggled. She handled their crops, 
and knew what they had eaten, and if too little or too much; 
her face enacting a vivid pantomime of the criticisms pass- 
ing in her mind. 

The birds that the two girls had brought in were duly re- 
turned to the yard, and the process was repeated till all the 
pet cocks and hens had been submitted to the old woman — 
Hamburghs, Bantams, Cochins, Brahmas, Dorkings, and 
such other sorts as were in fashion just then — her percep- 
tion of each visitor being seldom at fault as she received the 



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Si 



bird upon her knees. 

It reminded Tess of a Confirmation, in which Mrs 
d'Urberville was the bishop, the fowls the young people 
presented, and herself and the maid-servant the parson and 
curate of the parish bringing them up. At the end of the 
ceremony Mrs d'Urberville abruptly asked Tess, wrinkling 
and twitching her face into undulations, 'Can you whistle?' 

"Whistle, Ma'am?' 

'Yes, whistle tunes.' 

Tess could whistle like most other country-girls, though 
the accomplishment was one which she did not care to pro- 
fess in genteel company. However, she blandly admitted 
that such was the fact. 

'Then you will have to practise it every day. I had a lad 
who did it very well, but he has left. I want you to whistle 
to my bullfinches; as I cannot see them, I like to hear them, 
and we teach 'em airs that way. Tell her where the cages 
are, Elizabeth. You must begin to-morrow, or they will go 
back in their piping. They have been neglected these several 
days.' 

'Mr d'Urberville whistled to 'em this morning, ma'am,' 
said Elizabeth. 

'He! Pooh!' 

The old lady's face creased into furrows of repugnance, 
and she made no further reply. 

Thus the reception of Tess by her fancied kinswoman 
terminated, and the birds were taken back to their quarters. 
The girl's surprise at Mrs d'Urberville 's manner was not 
great; for since seeing the size of the house she had expect- 



Sl 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ed no more. But she was far from being aware that the old 
lady had never heard a word of the so-called kinship. She 
gathered that no great affection flowed between the blind 
woman and her son. But in that, too, she was mistaken. Mrs 
d'Urberville was not the first mother compelled to love her 
offspring resentfully, and to be bitterly fond. 

In spite of the unpleasant initiation of the day before, 
Tess inclined to the freedom and novelty of her new posi- 
tion in the morning when the sun shone, now that she was 
once installed there; and she was curious to test her powers 
in the unexpected direction asked of her, so as to ascertain 
her chance of retaining her post. As soon as she was alone 
within the walled garden she sat herself down on a coop, 
and seriously screwed up her mouth for the long-neglected 
practice. She found her former ability to have degenerated 
to the production of a hollow rush of wind through the lips, 
and no clear note at all. 

She remained fruitlessly blowing and blowing, wonder- 
ing how she could have so grown out of the art which had 
come by nature, till she became aware of a movement among 
the ivy-boughs which cloaked the garden-wall no less then 
the cottage. Looking that way she beheld a form springing 
from the coping to the plot. It was Alec d'Urberville, whom 
she had not set eyes on since he had conducted her the day 
before to the door of the gardener's cottage where she had 
lodgings. 

'Upon my honour!' cried he, 'there was never before such 
a beautiful thing in Nature or Art as you look, 'Cousin' Tess 
('Cousin' had a faint ring of mockery). I have been watching 



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you from over the wall — sitting like IM-patience on a mon- 
ument, and pouting up that pretty red mouth to whistling 
shape, and whooing and whooing, and privately swearing, 
and never being able to produce a note. Why, you are quite 
cross because you can't do it.' 

'I may be cross, but I didn't swear.' 

'Ah! I understand why you are trying — those bullies! My 
mother wants you to carry on their musical education. How 
selfish of her! As if attending to these curst cocks and hens 
here were not enough work for any girl. I would flatly re- 
fuse, if I were you.' 

'But she wants me particularly to do it, and to be ready by 
to-morrow morning.' 

'Does she? Well then — I'll give you a lesson or two.' 

'Oh no, you won't!' said Tess, withdrawing towards the 
door. 

'Nonsense; I don't want to touch you. See — I'll stand on 
this side of the wire-netting, and you can keep on the other; 
so you may feel quite safe. Now, look here; you screw up 
your lips too harshly. There 'tis — so.' 

He suited the action to the word, and whistled a line of 
'Take, O take those lips away.' But the allusion was lost upon 
Tess. 

'Now try,' said d'Urberville. 

She attempted to look reserved; her face put on a sculp- 
tural severity. But he persisted in his demand, and at last, to 
get rid of him, she did put up her lips as directed for produc- 
ing a clear note; laughing distressfully, however, and then 
blushing with vexation that she had laughed. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



He encouraged her with 'Try again!' 

Tess was quite serious, painfully serious by this time; 
and she tried — ultimately and unexpectedly emitting a 
real round sound. The momentary pleasure of success got 
the better of her; her eyes enlarged, and she involuntarily 
smiled in his face. 

'That's it! Now I have started you — you'll go on beauti- 
fully. There — I said I would not come near you; and, in spite 
of such temptation as never before fell to mortal man, I'll 
keep my word... Tess, do you think my mother a queer old 
soul?' 

'I don't know much of her yet, sir.' 

'You'll find her so; she must be, to make you learn to 
whistle to her bullfinches. I am rather out of her books just 
now, but you will be quite in favour if you treat her live- 
stock well. Good morning. If you meet with any difficulties 
and want help here, don't go to the bailiff, come to me.' 

It was in the economy of this regime that Tess Dur- 
beyfield had undertaken to fill a place. Her first day's 
experiences were fairly typical of those which followed 
through many succeeding days. A familiarity with Alec 
d'Urberville's presence — which that young man carefully 
cultivated in her by playful dialogue, and by jestingly call- 
ing her his cousin when they were alone — removed much of 
her original shyness of him, without, however, implanting 
any feeling which could engender shyness of a new and ten- 
derer kind. But she was more pliable under his hands than 
a mere companionship would have made her, owing to her 
unavoidable dependence upon his mother, and, through 



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85 



that lady's comparative helplessness, upon him. 

She soon found that whistling to the bullfinches in Mrs 
d'Urberville's room was no such onerous business when she 
had regained the art, for she had caught from her musical 
mother numerous airs that suited those songsters admira- 
bly. A far more satisfactory time than when she practised in 
the garden was this whistling by the cages each morning. 
Unrestrained by the young man's presence she threw up her 
mouth, put her lips near the bars, and piped away in easeful 
grace to the attentive listeners. 

Mrs d'Urberville slept in a large four-post bedstead hung 
with heavy damask curtains, and the bullfinches occupied 
the same apartment, where they flitted about freely at cer- 
tain hours, and made little white spots on the furniture and 
upholstery. Once while Tess was at the window where the 
cages were ranged, giving her lesson as usual, she thought 
she heard a rustling behind the bed. The old lady was not 
present, and turning round the girl had an impression that 
the toes of a pair of boots were visible below the fringe of 
the curtains. Thereupon her whistling became so disjointed 
that the listener, if such there were, must have discovered 
her suspicion of his presence. She searched the curtains ev- 
ery morning after that, but never found anybody within 
them. Alec d'Urberville had evidently thought better of his 
freak to terrify her by an ambush of that kind. 



86 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



X 



Every village has its idiosyncrasy, its constitution, often 
its own code of morality. The levity of some of the younger 
women in and about Trantridge was marked, and was per- 
haps symptomatic of the choice spirit who ruled The Slopes 
in that vicinity. The place had also a more abiding defect; it 
drank hard. The staple conversation on the farms around 
was on the uselessness of saving money; and smock- frocked 
arithmeticians, leaning on their ploughs or hoes, would 
enter into calculations of great nicety to prove that parish 
relief was a fuller provision for a man in his old age than any 
which could result from savings out of their wages during 
a whole lifetime. 

The chief pleasure of these philosophers lay in going ev- 
ery Saturday night, when work was done, to Chaseborough, 
a decayed market-town two or three miles distant; and, re- 
turning in the small hours of the next morning, to spend 
Sunday in sleeping off the dyspeptic effects of the curious 
compounds sold to them as beer by the monopolizers of the 
once-independent inns. 

For a long time Tess did not join in the weekly pilgrim- 
ages. But under pressure from matrons not much older than 
herself — for a field-man's wages being as high at twenty-one 
as at forty, marriage was early here — Tess at length consent- 
ed to go. Her first experience of the journey afforded her 



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87 



more enjoyment than she had expected, the hilariousness of 
the others being quite contagious after her monotonous at- 
tention to the poultry-farm all the week. She went again and 
again. Being graceful and interesting, standing moreover 
on the momentary threshold of womanhood, her appear- 
ance drew down upon her some sly regards from loungers 
in the streets of Chaseborough; hence, though sometimes 
her journey to the town was made independently, she always 
searched for her fellows at nightfall, to have the protection 
of their companionship homeward. 

This had gone on for a month or two when there came 
a Saturday in September, on which a fair and a market co- 
incided; and the pilgrims from Trantridge sought double 
delights at the inns on that account. Tess's occupations 
made her late in setting out, so that her comrades reached 
the town long before her. It was a fine September evening, 
just before sunset, when yellow lights struggle with blue 
shades in hairlike lines, and the atmosphere itself forms a 
prospect without aid from more solid objects, except the 
innumerable winged insects that dance in it. Through this 
low-lit mistiness Tess walked leisurely along. 

She did not discover the coincidence of the market with 
the fair till she had reached the place, by which time it was 
close upon dusk. Her limited marketing was soon complet- 
ed; and then as usual she began to look about for some of 
the Trantridge cottagers. 

At first she could not find them, and she was informed 
that most of them had gone to what they called a private lit- 
tle jig at the house of a hay-trusser and peat-dealer who had 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



transactions with their farm. He lived in an out-of-the-way 
nook of the townlet, and in trying to find her course thither 
her eyes fell upon Mr d'Urberville standing at a street cor- 
ner. 

'What — my Beauty? You here so late?' he said. 

She told him that she was simply waiting for company 
homeward. 

'I'll see you again,' said he over her shoulder as she went 
on down the back lane. 

Approaching the hay-trussers, she could hear the fid- 
dled notes of a reel proceeding from some building in the 
rear; but no sound of dancing was audible — an exceptional 
state of things for these parts, where as a rule the stamping 
drowned the music. The front door being open she could see 
straight through the house into the garden at the back as far 
as the shades of night would allow; and nobody appearing 
to her knock, she traversed the dwelling and went up the 
path to the outhouse whence the sound had attracted her. 

It was a windowless erection used for storage, and from 
the open door there floated into the obscurity a mist of yel- 
low radiance, which at first Tess thought to be illuminated 
smoke. But on drawing nearer she perceived that it was a 
cloud of dust, lit by candles within the outhouse, whose 
beams upon the haze carried forward the outline of the 
doorway into the wide night of the garden. 

When she came close and looked in she beheld indistinct 
forms racing up and down to the figure of the dance, the 
silence of their footfalls arising from their being overshoe 
in 'scroff' — that is to say, the powdery residuum from the 



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So 



storage of peat and other products, the stirring of which by 
their turbulent feet created the nebulosity that involved the 
scene. Through this floating, fusty debris of peat and hay, 
mixed with the perspirations and warmth of the dancers, 
and forming together a sort of vegeto -human pollen, the 
muted fiddles feebly pushed their notes, in marked contrast 
to the spirit with which the measure was trodden out. They 
coughed as they danced, and laughed as they coughed. Of 
the rushing couples there could barely be discerned more 
than the high lights — the indistinctness shaping them to 
satyrs clasping nymphs — a multiplicity of Pans whirling a 
multiplicity of Syrinxes; Lotis attempting to elude Priapus, 
and always failing. 

At intervals a couple would approach the doorway for 
air, and the haze no longer veiling their features, the demi- 
gods resolved themselves into the homely personalities of 
her own next-door neighbours. Could Trantridge in two or 
three short hours have metamorphosed itself thus madly! 

Some Sileni of the throng sat on benches and hay-trusses 
by the wall; and one of them recognized her. 

'The maids don't think it respectable to dance at The Flow- 
er-de-Luce,' he explained. 'They don't like to let everybody 
see which be their fancy-men. Besides, the house sometimes 
shuts up just when their jints begin to get greased. So we 
come here and send out for liquor.' 

'But when be any of you going home?' asked Tess with 
some anxiety. 

'Now — a'most directly. This is all but the last jig.' 

She waited. The reel drew to a close, and some of the 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



party were in the mind of starting. But others would not, 
and another dance was formed. This surely would end it, 
thought Tess. But it merged in yet another. She became rest- 
less and uneasy; yet, having waited so long, it was necessary 
to wait longer; on account of the fair the roads were dot- 
ted with roving characters of possibly ill intent; and, though 
not fearful of measurable dangers, she feared the unknown. 
Had she been near Marlott she would have had less dread. 

'Don't ye be nervous, my dear good soul,' expostulated, 
between his coughs, a young man with a wet face and his 
straw hat so far back upon his head that the brim encircled 
it like the nimbus of a saint. 'What's yer hurry? To-morrow 
is Sunday, thank God, and we can sleep it off in church- 
time. Now, have a turn with me?' 

She did not abhor dancing, but she was not going to 
dance here. The movement grew more passionate: the fid- 
dlers behind the luminous pillar of cloud now and then 
varied the air by playing on the wrong side of the bridge or 
with the back of the bow. But it did not matter; the panting 
shapes spun onwards. 

They did not vary their partners if their inclination were 
to stick to previous ones. Changing partners simply meant 
that a satisfactory choice had not as yet been arrived at by 
one or other of the pair, and by this time every couple had 
been suitably matched. It was then that the ecstasy and the 
dream began, in which emotion was the matter of the uni- 
verse, and matter but an adventitious intrusion likely to 
hinder you from spinning where you wanted to spin. 

Suddenly there was a dull thump on the ground: a couple 



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had fallen, and lay in a mixed heap. The next couple, unable 
to check its progress, came toppling over the obstacle. An 
inner cloud of dust rose around the prostrate figures amid 
the general one of the room, in which a twitching entangle- 
ment of arms and legs was discernible. 

'You shall catch it for this, my gentleman, when you get 
home!' burst in female accents from the human heap — 
those of the unhappy partner of the man whose clumsiness 
had caused the mishap; she happened also to be his recent- 
ly married wife, in which assortment there was nothing 
unusual at Trantridge as long as any affection remained be- 
tween wedded couples; and, indeed, it was not uncustomary 
in their later lives, to avoid making odd lots of the single 
people between whom there might be a warm understand- 
ing. 

A loud laugh from behind Tess's back, in the shade of the 
garden, united with the titter within the room. She looked 
round, and saw the red coal of a cigar: Alec d'Urberville was 
standing there alone. He beckoned to her, and she reluc- 
tantly retreated towards him. 

'Well, my Beauty, what are you doing here?' 

She was so tired after her long day and her walk that she 
confided her trouble to him — that she had been waiting ever 
since he saw her to have their company home, because the 
road at night was strange to her. 'But it seems they will nev- 
er leave off, and I really think I will wait no longer.' 

'Certainly do not. I have only a saddle-horse here to-day; 
but come to The Flower-de-Luce, and I'll hire a trap, and 
drive you home with me.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Tess, though flattered, had never quite got over her 
original mistrust of him, and, despite their tardiness, she 
preferred to walk home with the work-folk. So she answered 
that she was much obliged to him, but would not trouble 
him. 'I have said that I will wait for 'em, and they will ex- 
pect me to now.' 

'Very well, Miss Independence. Please yourself... Then 
I shall not hurry... My good Lord, what a kick-up they are 
having there!' 

He had not put himself forward into the light, but some 
of them had perceived him, and his presence led to a slight 
pause and a consideration of how the time was flying. As 
soon as he had re-lit a cigar and walked away the Trantridge 
people began to collect themselves from amid those who 
had come in from other farms, and prepared to leave in a 
body. Their bundles and baskets were gathered up, and half 
an hour later, when the clock-chime sounded a quarter past 
eleven, they were straggling along the lane which led up the 
hill towards their homes. 

It was a three-mile walk, along a dry white road, made 
whiter to-night by the light of the moon. 

Tess soon perceived as she walked in the flock, some- 
times with this one, sometimes with that, that the fresh 
night air was producing staggerings and serpentine cours- 
es among the men who had partaken too freely; some of 
the more careless women also were wandering in their 
gait — to wit, a dark virago, Car Darch, dubbed Queen of 
Spades, till lately a favourite of d'Urberville 's; Nancy, her 
sister, nicknamed the Queen of Diamonds; and the young 



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married woman who had already tumbled down. Yet how- 
ever terrestrial and lumpy their appearance just now to the 
mean unglamoured eye, to themselves the case was differ- 
ent. They followed the road with a sensation that they were 
soaring along in a supporting medium, possessed of orig- 
inal and profound thoughts, themselves and surrounding 
nature forming an organism of which all the parts harmo- 
niously and joyously interpenetrated each other. They were 
as sublime as the moon and stars above them, and the moon 
and stars were as ardent as they. 

Tess, however, had undergone such painful experiences 
of this kind in her father's house that the discovery of their 
condition spoilt the pleasure she was beginning to feel in 
the moonlight journey. Yet she stuck to the party, for rea- 
sons above given. 

In the open highway they had progressed in scattered or- 
der; but now their route was through a field-gate, and the 
foremost finding a difficulty in opening it, they closed up 
together. 

This leading pedestrian was Car the Queen of Spades, 
who carried a wicker-basket containing her mother's gro- 
ceries, her own draperies, and other purchases for the week. 
The basket being large and heavy, Car had placed it for con- 
venience of porterage on the top of her head, where it rode 
on in jeopardized balance as she walked with arms akim- 
bo. 

'Well — whatever is that a-creeping down thy back, Car 
Darch?' said one of the group suddenly. 

All looked at Car. Her gown was a light cotton print, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



and from the back of her head a kind of rope could be seen 
descending to some distance below her waist, like a China- 
man's queue. 

"Tis her hair falling down,' said another. 

No; it was not her hair: it was a black stream of some- 
thing oozing from her basket, and it glistened like a slimy 
snake in the cold still rays of the moon. 

"Tis treacle,' said an observant matron. 

Treacle it was. Car's poor old grandmother had a weak- 
ness for the sweet stuff. Honey she had in plenty out of her 
own hives, but treacle was what her soul desired, and Car 
had been about to give her a treat of surprise. Hastily lower- 
ing the basket the dark girl found that the vessel containing 
the syrup had been smashed within. 

By this time there had arisen a shout of laughter at the 
extraordinary appearance of Car's back, which irritated the 
dark queen into getting rid of the disfigurement by the first 
sudden means available, and independently of the help of 
the scoffers. She rushed excitedly into the field they were 
about to cross, and flinging herself flat on her back upon the 
grass, began to wipe her gown as well as she could by spin- 
ning horizontally on the herbage and dragging herself over 
it upon her elbows. 

The laughter rang louder; they clung to the gate, to the 
posts, rested on their staves, in the weakness engendered by 
their convulsions at the spectacle of Car. Our heroine, who 
had hitherto held her peace, at this wild moment could not 
help joining in with the rest. 

It was a misfortune — in more ways than one. No soon- 



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er did the dark queen hear the soberer richer note of Tess 
among those of the other work-people than a long-smoul- 
dering sense of rivalry inflamed her to madness. She sprang 
to her feet and closely faced the object of her dislike. 

'How darest th' laugh at me, hussy!' she cried. 

'I couldn't really help it when t'others did,' apologized 
Tess, still tittering. 

'Ah, th'st think th' beest everybody, dostn't, because th' 
beest first favourite with He just now! But stop a bit, my 
lady, stop a bit! I'm as good as two of such! Look here — 
here's at 'ee!' 

To Tess's horror the dark queen began stripping off the 
bodice of her gown — which for the added reason of its 
ridiculed condition she was only too glad to be free of — 
till she had bared her plump neck, shoulders, and arms to 
the moonshine, under which they looked as luminous and 
beautiful as some Praxitelean creation, in their possession 
of the faultless rotundities of a lusty country-girl. She closed 
her fists and squared up at Tess. 

'Indeed, then, I shall not fight!' said the latter majestical- 
ly; 'and if I had know you was of that sort, I wouldn't have so 
let myself down as to come with such a whorage as this is!' 

The rather too inclusive speech brought down a torrent 
of vituperation from other quarters upon fair Tess's un- 
lucky head, particularly from the Queen of Diamonds, who 
having stood in the relations to d'Urberville that Car had 
also been suspected of, united with the latter against the 
common enemy. Several other women also chimed in, with 
an animus which none of them would have been so fatuous 



•36 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



as to show but for the rollicking evening they had passed. 
Thereupon, finding Tess unfairly browbeaten, the husbands 
and lovers tried to make peace by defending her; but the re- 
sult of that attempt was directly to increase the war. 

Tess was indignant and ashamed. She no longer minded 
the loneliness of the way and the lateness of the hour; her 
one object was to get away from the whole crew as soon as 
possible. She knew well enough that the better among them 
would repent of their passion next day. They were all now 
inside the field, and she was edging back to rush off alone 
when a horseman emerged almost silently from the corner 
of the hedge that screened the road, and Alec d'Urberville 
looked round upon them. 

'What the devil is all this row about, work-folk?' he 
asked. 

The explanation was not readily forthcoming; and, in 
truth, he did not require any. Having heard their voices 
while yet some way off he had ridden creepingly forward, 
and learnt enough to satisfy himself. 

Tess was standing apart from the rest, near the gate. He 
bent over towards her. 'Jump up behind me,' he whispered, 
'and we'll get shot of the screaming cats in a jiffy!' 

She felt almost ready to faint, so vivid was her sense of 
the crisis. At almost any other moment of her life she would 
have refused such proffered aid and company, as she had 
refused them several times before; and now the loneliness 
would not of itself have forced her to do otherwise. But com- 
ing as the invitation did at the particular juncture when fear 
and indignation at these adversaries could be transformed 



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by a spring of the foot into a triumph over them, she aban- 
doned herself to her impulse, climbed the gate, put her toe 
upon his instep, and scrambled into the saddle behind him. 
The pair were speeding away into the distant gray by the 
time that the contentious revellers became aware of what 
had happened. 

The Queen of Spades forgot the stain on her bodice, and 
stood beside the Queen of Diamonds and the new-married, 
staggering young woman — all with a gaze of fixity in the 
direction in which the horse's tramp was diminishing into 
silence on the road. 

'What be ye looking at?' asked a man who had not ob- 
served the incident. 

'Ho-ho-ho!' laughed dark Car. 

'Hee-hee-hee!' laughed the tippling bride, as she steadied 
herself on the arm of her fond husband. 

'Heu-heu-heu!' laughed dark Car's mother, stroking her 
moustache as she explained laconically: 'Out of the frying- 
pan into the fire!' 

Then these children of the open air, whom even excess of 
alcohol could scarce injure permanently, betook themselves 
to the field-path; and as they went there moved onward 
with them, around the shadow of each one's head, a circle of 
opalized light, formed by the moon's rays upon the glisten- 
ing sheet of dew. Each pedestrian could see no halo but his 
or her own, which never deserted the head-shadow, what- 
ever its vulgar unsteadiness might be; but adhered to it, and 
persistently beautified it; till the erratic motions seemed 
an inherent part of the irradiation, and the fumes of their 



9» 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



breathing a component of the night's mist; and the spirit of 
the scene, and of the moonlight, and of Nature, seemed har- 
moniously to mingle with the spirit of wine. 



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XI 



The twain cantered along for some time without speech, 
Tess as she clung to him still panting in her triumph, yet in 
other respects dubious. She had perceived that the horse was 
not the spirited one he sometimes rose, and felt no alarm on 
that score, though her seat was precarious enough despite 
her tight hold of him. She begged him to slow the animal to a 
walk, which Alec accordingly did. 

'Neatly done, was it not, dear Tess?' he said by and by. 

'Yes!' said she. 'I am sure I ought to be much obliged to 
you.' 

'And are you?' 

She did not reply. 

'Tess, why do you always dislike my kissing you?' 

'I suppose — because I don't love you.' 

'You are quite sure?' 

'I am angry with you sometimes!' 

Ah, I half feared as much.' Nevertheless, Alec did not ob- 
ject to that confession. He knew that anything was better then 
frigidity. 'Why haven't you told me when I have made you an- 
gry?' 

You know very well why. Because I cannot help myself 
here.' 

'I haven't offended you often by love-making?' 

You have sometimes.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'How many times?' 

'You know as well as I — too many times.' 

'Every time I have tried?' 

She was silent, and the horse ambled along for a consider- 
able distance, till a faint luminous fog, which had hung in the 
hollows all the evening, became general and enveloped them. 
It seemed to hold the moonlight in suspension, rendering it 
more pervasive than in clear air. Whether on this account, or 
from absent-mindedness, or from sleepiness, she did not per- 
ceive that they had long ago passed the point at which the lane 
to Trantridge branched from the highway, and that her con- 
ductor had not taken the Trantridge track. 

She was inexpressibly weary. She had risen at five o'clock 
every morning of that week, had been on foot the whole of 
each day, and on this evening had in addition walked the three 
miles to Chaseborough, waited three hours for her neighbours 
without eating or drinking, her impatience to start them pre- 
venting either; she had then walked a mile of the way home, 
and had undergone the excitement of the quarrel, till, with 
the slow progress of their steed, it was now nearly one o'clock. 
Only once, however, was she overcome by actual drowsiness. 
In that moment of oblivion her head sank gently against him. 

D'Urberville stopped the horse, withdrew his feet from 
the stirrups, turned sideways on the saddle, and enclosed her 
waist with his arm to support her. 

This immediately put her on the defensive, and with one 
of those sudden impulses of reprisal to which she was liable 
she gave him a little push from her. In his ticklish position he 
nearly lost his balance and only just avoided rolling over into 



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the road, the horse, though a powerful one, being fortunately 
the quietest he rode. 

'That is devilish unkind!' he said. 'I mean no harm — only 
to keep you from falling.' 

She pondered suspiciously, till, thinking that this might af- 
ter all be true, she relented, and said quite humbly, 'I beg your 
pardon, sir.' 

'I won't pardon you unless you show some confidence in 
me. Good God!' he burst out, 'what am I, to be repulsed so by 
a mere chit like you? For near three mortal months have you 
trifled with my feelings, eluded me, and snubbed me; and I 
won't stand it!' 

'I'll leave you to-morrow, sir.' 

'No, you will not leave me to-morrow! Will you, I ask once 
more, show your belief in me by letting me clasp you with my 
arm? Come, between us two and nobody else, now. We know 
each other well; and you know that I love you, and think you 
the prettiest girl in the world, which you are. Mayn't I treat 
you as a lover?' 

She drew a quick pettish breath of objection, writhing un- 
easily on her seat, looked far ahead, and murmured, 'I don't 
know — I wish — how can I say yes or no when — ' 

He settled the matter by clasping his arm round her as he 
desired, and Tess expressed no further negative. Thus they si- 
dled slowly onward till it struck her they had been advancing 
for an unconscionable time — far longer than was usually oc- 
cupied by the short journey from Chaseborough, even at this 
walking pace, and that they were no longer on hard road, but 
in a mere trackway. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Why, where be we?' she exclaimed. 

'Passing by a wood.' 

'A wood — what wood? Surely we are quite out of the 
road?' 

'A bit of The Chase — the oldest wood in England. It is a 
lovely night, and why should we not prolong our ride a little?' 

'How could you be so treacherous!' said Tess, between 
archness and real dismay, and getting rid of his arm by pull- 
ing open his fingers one by one, though at the risk of slipping 
off herself. 'Just when I've been putting such trust in you, and 
obliging you to please you, because I thought I had wronged 
you by that push! Please set me down, and let me walk home.' 

'You cannot walk home, darling, even if the air were clear. 
We are miles away from Trantridge, if I must tell you, and 
in this growing fog you might wander for hours among these 
trees.' 

'Never mind that,' she coaxed. 'Put me down, I beg you. I 
don't mind where it is; only let me get down, sir, please!' 

'Very well, then, I will — on one condition. Having brought 
you here to this out-of-the-way place, I feel myself responsible 
for your safe-conduct home, whatever you may yourself feel 
about it. As to your getting to Trantridge without assistance, it 
is quite impossible; for, to tell the truth, dear, owing to this fog, 
which so disguises everything, I don't quite know where we 
are myself. Now, if you will promise to wait beside the horse 
while I walk through the bushes till I come to some road or 
house, and ascertain exactly our whereabouts, I'll deposit you 
here willingly. When I come back I'll give you full directions, 
and if you insist upon walking you may; or you may ride — at 



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your pleasure.' 

She accepted these terms, and slid off on the near side, 
though not till he had stolen a cursory kiss. He sprang down 
on the other side. 

'I suppose I must hold the horse?' said she. 

'Oh no; it's not necessary,' replied Alec, patting the panting 
creature. 'He's had enough of it for to-night.' 

He turned the horse's head into the bushes, hitched him 
on to a bough, and made a sort of couch or nest for her in the 
deep mass of dead leaves. 

'Now, you sit there,' he said. 'The leaves have not got damp 
as yet. Just give an eye to the horse — it will be quite suffi- 
cient.' 

He took a few steps away from her, but, returning, said, 
'By the bye, Tess, your father has a new cob to-day. Somebody 
gave it to him.' 

'Somebody? You!' 

D'Urberville nodded. 

'O how very good of you that is!' she exclaimed, with a 
painful sense of the awkwardness of having to thank him just 
then. 

'And the children have some toys.' 

'I didn't know — you ever sent them anything!' she mur- 
mured, much moved. 'I almost wish you had not — yes, I 
almost wish it!' 

'Why, dear?' 

'It — hampers me so.' 

'Tessy — don't you love me ever so little now?' 

'I'm grateful,' she reluctantly admitted. 'But I fear I do 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



not — ' The sudden vision of his passion for herself as a factor 
in this result so distressed her that, beginning with one slow 
tear, and then following with another, she wept outright. 

'Don't cry, dear, dear one! Now sit down here, and wait till 
I come.' She passively sat down amid the leaves he had heaped, 
and shivered slightly. Are you cold?' he asked. 

'Not very — a little.' 

He touched her with his fingers, which sank into her as 
into down. 'You have only that puffy muslin dress on — how's 
that?' 

'It's my best summer one. 'Twas very warm when I started, 
and I didn't know I was going to ride, and that it would be 
night.' 

'Nights grow chilly in September. Let me see.' He pulled 
off a light overcoat that he had worn, and put it round her ten- 
derly. "That's it — now you'll feel warmer,' he continued. 'Now, 
my pretty, rest there; I shall soon be back again.' 

Having buttoned the overcoat round her shoulders he 
plunged into the webs of vapour which by this time formed 
veils between the trees. She could hear the rustling of the 
branches as he ascended the adjoining slope, till his move- 
ments were no louder than the hopping of a bird, and finally 
died away. With the setting of the moon the pale light less- 
ened, and Tess became invisible as she fell into reverie upon 
the leaves where he had left her. 

In the meantime Alec d'Urberville had pushed on up the 
slope to clear his genuine doubt as to the quarter of The Chase 
they were in. He had, in fact, ridden quite at random for over 
an hour, taking any turning that came to hand in order to 



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prolong companionship with her, and giving far more atten- 
tion to Tess's moonlit person than to any wayside object. A 
little rest for the jaded animal being desirable, he did not has- 
ten his search for landmarks. A clamber over the hill into the 
adjoining vale brought him to the fence of a highway whose 
contours he recognized, which settled the question of their 
whereabouts. D'Urberville thereupon turned back; but by 
this time the moon had quite gone down, and partly on ac- 
count of the fog The Chase was wrapped in thick darkness, 
although morning was not far off. He was obliged to advance 
with outstretched hands to avoid contact with the boughs, and 
discovered that to hit the exact spot from which he had start- 
ed was at first entirely beyond him. Roaming up and down, 
round and round, he at length heard a slight movement of the 
horse close at hand; and the sleeve of his overcoat unexpect- 
edly caught his foot. 

'Tess!' said d'Urberville. 

There was no answer. The obscurity was now so great that 
he could see absolutely nothing but a pale nebulousness at his 
feet, which represented the white muslin figure he had left 
upon the dead leaves. Everything else was blackness alike. 
D'Urberville stooped; and heard a gentle regular breathing. 
He knelt and bent lower, till her breath warmed his face, and 
in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers. She was sleep- 
ing soundly, and upon her eyelashes there lingered tears. 

Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around. Above 
them rose the primeval yews and oaks of The Chase, in which 
there poised gentle roosting birds in their last nap; and about 
them stole the hopping rabbits and hares. But, might some say, 



106 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



where was Tess's guardian angel? where was the providence 
of her simple faith? Perhaps, like that other god of whom the 
ironical Tishbite spoke, he was talking, or he was pursuing, or 
he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and not to be awaked. 

Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sen- 
sitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there 
should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed 
to receive; why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, 
the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the man, many 
thousand years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain 
to our sense of order. One may, indeed, admit the possibility 
of a retribution lurking in the present catastrophe. Doubtless 
some of Tess d'Urberville's mailed ancestors rollicking home 
from a fray had dealt the same measure even more ruthless- 
ly towards peasant girls of their time. But though to visit the 
sins of the fathers upon the children may be a morality good 
enough for divinities, it is scorned by average human nature; 
and it therefore does not mend the matter. 

As Tess's own people down in those retreats are never tired 
of saying among each other in their fatalistic way: 'It was to 
be.' There lay the pity of it. An immeasurable social chasm was 
to divide our heroine's personality thereafter from that previ- 
ous self of hers who stepped from her mother's door to try her 
fortune at Trantridge poultry-farm. 

END OF PHASE THE FIRST 



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Phase the Second: 
Maiden No More 



108 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XII 



The basket was heavy and the bundle was large, but she 
lugged them along like a person who did not find her es- 
pecial burden in material things. Occasionally she stopped 
to rest in a mechanical way by some gate or post; and then, 
giving the baggage another hitch upon her full round arm, 
went steadily on again. 

It was a Sunday morning in late October, about four 
months after Tess Durbeyfield's arrival at Trantridge, and 
some few weeks subsequent to the night ride in The Chase. 
The time was not long past daybreak, and the yellow lumi- 
nosity upon the horizon behind her back lighted the ridge 
towards which her face was set — the barrier of the vale 
wherein she had of late been a stranger — which she would 
have to climb over to reach her birthplace. The ascent was 
gradual on this side, and the soil and scenery differed much 
from those within Blakemore Vale. Even the character and 
accent of the two peoples had shades of difference, despite 
the amalgamating effects of a roundabout railway; so that, 
though less than twenty miles from the place of her sojourn 
at Trantridge, her native village had seemed a far-away spot. 
The field-folk shut in there traded northward and westward, 
travelled, courted, and married northward and westward, 
thought northward and westward; those on this side mainly 
directed their energies and attention to the east and south. 



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The incline was the same down which d'Urberville had 
driven her so wildly on that day in June. Tess went up the 
remainder of its length without stopping, and on reaching 
the edge of the escarpment gazed over the familiar green 
world beyond, now half-veiled in mist. It was always beau- 
tiful from here; it was terribly beautiful to Tess to-day, for 
since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the serpent 
hisses where the sweet birds sing, and her views of life had 
been totally changed for her by the lesson. Verily another 
girl than the simple one she had been at home was she who, 
bowed by thought, stood still here, and turned to look be- 
hind her. She could not bear to look forward into the Vale. 

Ascending by the long white road that Tess herself had 
just laboured up, she saw a two-wheeled vehicle, beside 
which walked a man, who held up his hand to attract her 
attention. 

She obeyed the signal to wait for him with unspecula- 
tive repose, and in a few minutes man and horse stopped 
beside her. 

'Why did you slip away by stealth like this?' said 
d'Urberville, with upbraiding breathlessness; 'on a Sunday 
morning, too, when people were all in bed! I only discov- 
ered it by accident, and I have been driving like the deuce 
to overtake you. Just look at the mare. Why go off like this? 
You know that nobody wished to hinder your going. And 
how unnecessary it has been for you to toil along on foot, 
and encumber yourself with this heavy load! I have followed 
like a madman, simply to drive you the rest of the distance, 
if you won't come back.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I shan't come back,' said she. 

'I thought you wouldn't — I said so! Well, then, put up 
your basket, and let me help you on.' 

She listlessly placed her basket and bundle within the 
dog- cart, and stepped up, and they sat side by side. She had 
no fear of him now, and in the cause of her confidence her 
sorrow lay. 

D'Urberville mechanically lit a cigar, and the journey 
was continued with broken unemotional conversation on 
the commonplace objects by the wayside. He had quite for- 
gotten his struggle to kiss her when, in the early summer, 
they had driven in the opposite direction along the same 
road. But she had not, and she sat now, like a puppet, reply- 
ing to his remarks in monosyllables. After some miles they 
came in view of the clump of trees beyond which the village 
of Marlott stood. It was only then that her still face showed 
the least emotion, a tear or two beginning to trickle down. 

'What are you crying for?' he coldly asked. 

'I was only thinking that I was born over there,' mur- 
mured Tess. 

'Well — we must all be born somewhere.' 

'I wish I had never been born — there or anywhere else!' 

'Pooh! Well, if you didn't wish to come to Trantridge why 
did you come?' 

She did not reply. 

'You didn't come for love of me, that I'll swear.' 

"Tis quite true. If I had gone for love o' you, if I had ever 
sincerely loved you, if I loved you still, I should not so loathe 
and hate myself for my weakness as I do now! ... My eyes 



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were dazed by you for a little, and that was all.' 

He shrugged his shoulders. She resumed — 

'I didn't understand your meaning till it was too late.' 

'That's what every woman says.' 

'How can you dare to use such words!' she cried, turning 
impetuously upon him, her eyes flashing as the latent spirit 
(of which he was to see more some day) awoke in her. 'My 
God! I could knock you out of the gig! Did it never strike 
your mind that what every woman says some women may 
feel?' 

'Very well,' he said, laughing; 'I am sorry to wound you. 
I did wrong — I admit it.' He dropped into some little bitter- 
ness as he continued: 'Only you needn't be so everlastingly 
flinging it in my face. I am ready to pay to the uttermost 
farthing. You know you need not work in the fields or the 
dairies again. You know you may clothe yourself with the 
best, instead of in the bald plain way you have lately affect- 
ed, as if you couldn't get a ribbon more than you earn.' 

Her lip lifted slightly, though there was little scorn, as a 
rule, in her large and impulsive nature. 

'I have said I will not take anything more from you, and 
I will not — I cannot! I SHOULD be your creature to go on 
doing that, and I won't!' 

'One would think you were a princess from your man- 
ner, in addition to a true and original d'Urberville — ha! 
ha! Well, Tess, dear, I can say no more. I suppose I am a 
bad fellow — a damn bad fellow. I was born bad, and I have 
lived bad, and I shall die bad in all probability. But, upon 
my lost soul, I won't be bad towards you again, Tess. And 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



if certain circumstances should arise — you understand — 
in which you are in the least need, the least difficulty, send 
me one line, and you shall have by return whatever you re- 
quire. I may not be at Trantridge — I am going to London 
for a time — I can't stand the old woman. But all letters will 
be forwarded.' 

She said that she did not wish him to drive her further, 
and they stopped just under the clump of trees. D'Urberville 
alighted, and lifted her down bodily in his arms, afterwards 
placing her articles on the ground beside her. She bowed 
to him slightly, her eye just lingering in his; and then she 
turned to take the parcels for departure. 

Alec d'Urberville removed his cigar, bent towards her, 
and said — 

'You are not going to turn away like that, dear! Come!' 

'If you wish,' she answered indifferently. 'See how you've 
mastered me!' 

She thereupon turned round and lifted her face to his, 
and remained like a marble term while he imprinted a kiss 
upon her cheek — half perfunctorily, half as if zest had not 
yet quite died out. Her eyes vaguely rested upon the remot- 
est trees in the lane while the kiss was given, as though she 
were nearly unconscious of what he did. 

'Now the other side, for old acquaintance' sake.' 

She turned her head in the same passive way, as one 
might turn at the request of a sketcher or hairdresser, and 
he kissed the other side, his lips touching cheeks that were 
damp and smoothly chill as the skin of the mushrooms in 
the fields around. 



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'You don't give me your mouth and kiss me back. You 
never willingly do that — you'll never love me, I fear.' 

'I have said so, often. It is true. I have never really and 
truly loved you, and I think I never can.' She added mourn- 
fully, 'Perhaps, of all things, a lie on this thing would do the 
most good to me now; but I have honour enough left, little 
as 'tis, not to tell that lie. If I did love you, I may have the 
best o' causes for letting you know it. But I don't.' 

He emitted a laboured breath, as if the scene were get- 
ting rather oppressive to his heart, or to his conscience, or 
to his gentility. 

'Well, you are absurdly melancholy, Tess. I have no reason 
for flattering you now, and I can say plainly that you need 
not be so sad. You can hold your own for beauty against any 
woman of these parts, gentle or simple; I say it to you as a 
practical man and well-wisher. If you are wise you will show 
it to the world more than you do before it fades... And yet, 
Tess, will you come back to me! Upon my soul, I don't like 
to let you go like this!' 

'Never, never! I made up my mind as soon as I saw — what 
I ought to have seen sooner; and I won't come.' 

'Then good morning, my four months' cousin — good- 
bye!' 

He leapt up lightly, arranged the reins, and was gone be- 
tween the tall red-berried hedges. 

Tess did not look after him, but slowly wound along the 
crooked lane. It was still early, and though the sun's lower 
limb was just free of the hill, his rays, ungenial and peer- 
ing, addressed the eye rather than the touch as yet. There 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



was not a human soul near. Sad October and her sadder self 
seemed the only two existences haunting that lane. 

As she walked, however, some footsteps approached be- 
hind her, the footsteps of a man; and owing to the briskness 
of his advance he was close at her heels and had said 'Good 
morning' before she had been long aware of his propinqui- 
ty. He appeared to be an artisan of some sort, and carried a 
tin pot of red paint in his hand. He asked in a business-like 
manner if he should take her basket, which she permitted 
him to do, walking beside him. 

'It is early to be astir this Sabbath morn!' he said cheer- 
fully. 

'Yes,' said Tess. 

'When most people are at rest from their week's work.' 

She also assented to this. 

'Though I do more real work to-day than all the week 
besides.' 

'Do you?' 

All the week I work for the glory of man, and on Sunday 
for the glory of God. That's more real than the other — hey? 
I have a little to do here at this stile.' The man turned, as he 
spoke, to an opening at the roadside leading into a pasture. 
'If you'll wait a moment,' he added, T shall not be long.' 

As he had her basket she could not well do otherwise; 
and she waited, observing him. He set down her basket and 
the tin pot, and stirring the paint with the brush that was in 
it began painting large square letters on the middle board of 
the three composing the stile, placing a comma after each 
word, as if to give pause while that word was driven well 



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home to the reader's heart — 

THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT. 
2 Pet. ii. 3. 

Against the peaceful landscape, the pale, decaying tints 
of the copses, the blue air of the horizon, and the lichened 
stile-boards, these staring vermilion words shone forth. 
They seemed to shout themselves out and make the at- 
mosphere ring. Some people might have cried 'Alas, poor 
Theology!' at the hideous defacement — the last grotesque 
phase of a creed which had served mankind well in its time. 
But the words entered Tess with accusatory horror. It was 
as if this man had known her recent history; yet he was a 
total stranger. 

Having finished his text he picked up her basket, and she 
mechanically resumed her walk beside him. 

'Do you believe what you paint?' she asked in low tones. 

'Believe that tex? Do I believe in my own existence!' 

'But,' said she tremulously, 'suppose your sin was not of 
your own seeking?' 

He shook his head. 

'I cannot split hairs on that burning query,' he said. 'I 
have walked hundreds of miles this past summer, paint- 
ing these texes on every wall, gate, and stile the length and 
breadth of this district. I leave their application to the hearts 
of the people who read 'em.' 

'I think they are horrible,' said Tess. 'Crushing! Killing!' 

"That's what they are meant to be!' he replied in a trade 



n6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



voice. 'But you should read my hottest ones — them I kips for 
slums and seaports. They'd make ye wriggle! Not but what 
this is a very good tex for rural districts. ... Ah — there's a 
nice bit of blank wall up by that barn standing to waste. I 
must put one there — one that it will be good for dangerous 
young females like yerself to heed. Will ye wait, missy?' 

'No,' said she; and taking her basket Tess trudged on. A 
little way forward she turned her head. The old gray wall 
began to advertise a similar fiery lettering to the first, with 
a strange and unwonted mien, as if distressed at duties it 
had never before been called upon to perform. It was with a 
sudden flush that she read and realized what was to be the 
inscription he was now halfway through — 

THOU, SHALT, NOT, COMMIT— 

Her cheerful friend saw her looking, stopped his brush, 
and shouted— 

'If you want to ask for edification on these things of mo- 
ment, there's a very earnest good man going to preach a 
charity-sermon to-day in the parish you are going to — Mr 
Clare of Emminster. I'm not of his persuasion now, but he's 
a good man, and he'll expound as well as any parson I know. 
'Twas he began the work in me.' 

But Tess did not answer; she throbbingly resumed her 
walk, her eyes fixed on the ground. 'Pooh — I don't believe 
God said such things!' she murmured contemptuously 
when her flush had died away. 

A plume of smoke soared up suddenly from her father's 



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chimney, the sight of which made her heart ache. The as- 
pect of the interior, when she reached it, made her heart 
ache more. Her mother, who had just come down stairs, 
turned to greet her from the fireplace, where she was kin- 
dling barked-oak twigs under the breakfast kettle. The 
young children were still above, as was also her father, it 
being Sunday morning, when he felt justified in lying an ad- 
ditional half-hour. 

'Well! — my dear Tess!' exclaimed her surprised mother, 
jumping up and kissing the girl. 'How be ye? I didn't see you 
till you was in upon me! Have you come home to be mar- 
ried?' 

'No, I have not come for that, mother.' 

'Then for a holiday?' 

'Yes — for a holiday; for a long holiday,' said Tess. 

'What, isn't your cousin going to do the handsome 
thing?' 

'He's not my cousin, and he's not going to marry me.' 

Her mother eyed her narrowly. 

'Come, you have not told me all,' she said. 

Then Tess went up to her mother, put her face upon Joan's 
neck, and told. 

'And yet th'st not got him to marry 'ee!' reiterated her 
mother. 'Any woman would have done it but you, after 
that!' 

'Perhaps any woman would except me.' 

'It would have been something like a story to come back 
with, if you had!' continued Mrs Durbeyfield, ready to burst 
into tears of vexation. After all the talk about you and him 



us 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



which has reached us here, who would have expected it to 
end like this! Why didn't ye think of doing some good for 
your family instead o' thinking only of yourself? See how 
I've got to teave and slave, and your poor weak father with 
his heart clogged like a dripping-pan. I did hope for some- 
thing to come out o' this! To see what a pretty pair you 
and he made that day when you drove away together four 
months ago! See what he has given us — all, as we thought, 
because we were his kin. But if he's not, it must have been 
done because of his love for 'ee. And yet you've not got him 
to marry!' 

Get Alec d'Urberville in the mind to marry her! He mar- 
ry HER! On matrimony he had never once said a word. And 
what if he had? How a convulsive snatching at social sal- 
vation might have impelled her to answer him she could 
not say. But her poor foolish mother little knew her present 
feeling towards this man. Perhaps it was unusual in the cir- 
cumstances, unlucky, unaccountable; but there it was; and 
this, as she had said, was what made her detest herself. She 
had never wholly cared for him; she did not at all care for 
him now. She had dreaded him, winced before him, suc- 
cumbed to adroit advantages he took of her helplessness; 
then, temporarily blinded by his ardent manners, had been 
stirred to confused surrender awhile: had suddenly despised 
and disliked him, and had run away. That was all. Hate him 
she did not quite; but he was dust and ashes to her, and even 
for her name's sake she scarcely wished to marry him. 

'You ought to have been more careful if you didn't mean 
to get him to make you his wife!' 



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'O mother, my mother!' cried the agonized girl, turn- 
ing passionately upon her parent as if her poor heart would 
break. 'How could I be expected to know? I was a child 
when I left this house four months ago. Why didn't you tell 
me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn't you warn 
me? Ladies know what to fend hands against, because they 
read novels that tell them of these tricks; but I never had the 
chance o' learning in that way, and you did not help me!' 

Her mother was subdued. 

'I thought if I spoke of his fond feelings and what they 
might lead to, you would be hontish wi' him and lose your 
chance,' she murmured, wiping her eyes with her apron. 
Well, we must make the best of it, I suppose. 'Tis nater, af- 
ter all, and what do please God!' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XIII 



The event of Tess Durbeyfield's return from the man- 
or of her bogus kinsfolk was rumoured abroad, if rumour 
be not too large a word for a space of a square mile. In the 
afternoon several young girls of Marlott, former schoolfel- 
lows and acquaintances of Tess, called to see her, arriving 
dressed in their best starched and ironed, as became vis- 
itors to a person who had made a transcendent conquest 
(as they supposed), and sat round the room looking at her 
with great curiosity. For the fact that it was this said thirty- 
first cousin, Mr d'Urberville, who had fallen in love with 
her, a gentleman not altogether local, whose reputation as a 
reckless gallant and heartbreaker was beginning to spread 
beyond the immediate boundaries of Trantridge, lent Tess's 
supposed position, by its fearsomeness, a far higher fascina- 
tion that it would have exercised if unhazardous. 

Their interest was so deep that the younger ones 
whispered when her back was turned — 

'How pretty she is; and how that best frock do set her 
off! I believe it cost an immense deal, and that it was a gift 
from him.' 

Tess, who was reaching up to get the tea-things from the 
corner-cupboard, did not hear these commentaries. If she 
had heard them, she might soon have set her friends right 
on the matter. But her mother heard, and Joan's simple van- 



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ity, having been denied the hope of a dashing marriage, 
fed itself as well as it could upon the sensation of a dash- 
ing flirtation. Upon the whole she felt gratified, even though 
such a limited and evanescent triumph should involve her 
daughter's reputation; it might end in marriage yet, and in 
the warmth of her responsiveness to their admiration she 
invited her visitors to stay to tea. 

Their chatter, their laughter, their good-humoured in- 
nuendoes, above all, their flashes and flickerings of envy, 
revived Tess's spirits also; and, as the evening wore on, she 
caught the infection of their excitement, and grew almost 
gay. The marble hardness left her face, she moved with 
something of her old bounding step, and flushed in all her 
young beauty. 

At moments, in spite of thought, she would reply to their 
inquiries with a manner of superiority, as if recognizing 
that her experiences in the field of courtship had, indeed, 
been slightly enviable. But so far was she from being, in the 
words of Robert South, 'in love with her own ruin,' that the 
illusion was transient as lightning; cold reason came back to 
mock her spasmodic weakness; the ghastliness of her mo- 
mentary pride would convict her, and recall her to reserved 
listlessness again. 

And the despondency of the next morning's dawn, when 
it was no longer Sunday, but Monday; and no best clothes; 
and the laughing visitors were gone, and she awoke alone in 
her old bed, the innocent younger children breathing softly 
around her. In place of the excitement of her return, and the 
interest it had inspired, she saw before her a long and stony 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



highway which she had to tread, without aid, and with little 
sympathy. Her depression was then terrible, and she could 
have hidden herself in a tomb. 

In the course of a few weeks Tess revived sufficiently to 
show herself so far as was necessary to get to church one 
Sunday morning. She liked to hear the chanting — such as 
it was — and the old Psalms, and to join in the Morning 
Hymn. That innate love of melody, which she had inherited 
from her ballad-singing mother, gave the simplest music a 
power over her which could well-nigh drag her heart out of 
her bosom at times. 

To be as much out of observation as possible for reasons 
of her own, and to escape the gallantries of the young men, 
she set out before the chiming began, and took a back seat 
under the gallery, close to the lumber, where only old men 
and women came, and where the bier stood on end among 
the churchyard tools. 

Parishioners dropped in by twos and threes, deposited 
themselves in rows before her, rested three-quarters of a 
minute on their foreheads as if they were praying, though 
they were not; then sat up, and looked around. When the 
chants came on, one of her favourites happened to be cho- 
sen among the rest — the old double chant 'Langdon' — but 
she did not know what it was called, though she would much 
have liked to know. She thought, without exactly wording 
the thought, how strange and god-like was a composer's 
power, who from the grave could lead through sequences of 
emotion, which he alone had felt at first, a girl like her who 
had never heard of his name, and never would have a clue 



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to his personality. 

The people who had turned their heads turned them 
again as the service proceeded; and at last observing her, 
they whispered to each other. She knew what their whispers 
were about, grew sick at heart, and felt that she could come 
to church no more. 

The bedroom which she shared with some of the chil- 
dren formed her retreat more continually than ever. Here, 
under her few square yards of thatch, she watched winds, 
and snows, and rains, gorgeous sunsets, and successive 
moons at their full. So close kept she that at length almost 
everybody thought she had gone away. 

The only exercise that Tess took at this time was af- 
ter dark; and it was then, when out in the woods, that 
she seemed least solitary. She knew how to hit to a hair's- 
breadth that moment of evening when the light and the 
darkness are so evenly balanced that the constraint of day 
and the suspense of night neutralize each other, leaving ab- 
solute mental liberty. It is then that the plight of being alive 
becomes attenuated to its least possible dimensions. She had 
no fear of the shadows; her sole idea seemed to be to shun 
mankind — or rather that cold accretion called the world, 
which, so terrible in the mass, is so unformidable, even piti- 
able, in its units. 

On these lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was 
of a piece with the element she moved in. Her flexuous 
and stealthy figure became an integral part of the scene. 
At times her whimsical fancy would intensify natural pro- 
cesses around her till they seemed a part of her own story. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Rather they became a part of it; for the world is only a psy- 
chological phenomenon, and what they seemed they were. 
The midnight airs and gusts, moaning amongst the tightly- 
wrapped buds and bark of the winter twigs, were formulae 
of bitter reproach. A wet day was the expression of irremedi- 
able grief at her weakness in the mind of some vague ethical 
being whom she could not class definitely as the God of her 
childhood, and could not comprehend as any other. 

But this encompassment of her own characterization, 
based on shreds of convention, peopled by phantoms and 
voices antipathetic to her, was a sorry and mistaken cre- 
ation of Tess's fancy — a cloud of moral hobgoblins by which 
she was terrified without reason. It was they that were out 
of harmony with the actual world, not she. Walking among 
the sleeping birds in the hedges, watching the skipping 
rabbits on a moonlit warren, or standing under a pheasant- 
laden bough, she looked upon herself as a figure of Guilt 
intruding into the haunts of Innocence. But all the while 
she was making a distinction where there was no difference. 
Feeling herself in antagonism, she was quite in accord. She 
had been made to break an accepted social law, but no law 
known to the environment in which she fancied herself 
such an anomaly. 



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XIV 



It was a hazy sunrise in August. The denser nocturnal 
vapours, attacked by the warm beams, were dividing and 
shrinking into isolated fleeces within hollows and coverts, 
where they waited till they should be dried away to noth- 
ing. 

The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious sentient, 
personal look, demanding the masculine pronoun for its 
adequate expression. His present aspect, coupled with the 
lack of all human forms in the scene, explained the old-time 
heliolatries in a moment. One could feel that a saner reli- 
gion had never prevailed under the sky. The luminary was a 
golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature, gaz- 
ing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon an 
earth that was brimming with interest for him. 

His light, a little later, broke though chinks of cottage 
shutters, throwing stripes like red-hot pokers upon cup- 
boards, chests of drawers, and other furniture within; and 
awakening harvesters who were not already astir. 

But of all ruddy things that morning the brightest were 
two broad arms of painted wood, which rose from the mar- 
gin of yellow cornfield hard by Marlott village. They, with 
two others below, formed the revolving Maltese cross of the 
reaping-machine, which had been brought to the field on 
the previous evening to be ready for operations this day. The 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



paint with which they were smeared, intensified in hue by 
the sunlight, imparted to them a look of having been dipped 
in liquid fire. 

The field had already been 'opened"; that is to say, a lane 
a few feet wide had been hand-cut through the wheat along 
the whole circumference of the field for the first passage of 
the horses and machine. 

Two groups, one of men and lads, the other of women, 
had come down the lane just at the hour when the shadows 
of the eastern hedge-top struck the west hedge midway, so 
that the heads of the groups were enjoying sunrise while 
their feet were still in the dawn. They disappeared from the 
lane between the two stone posts which flanked the nearest 
field-gate. 

Presently there arose from within a ticking like the love- 
making of the grasshopper. The machine had begun, and 
a moving concatenation of three horses and the aforesaid 
long rickety machine was visible over the gate, a driver sit- 
ting upon one of the hauling horses, and an attendant on 
the seat of the implement. Along one side of the field the 
whole wain went, the arms of the mechanical reaper revolv- 
ing slowly, till it passed down the hill quite out of sight. In a 
minute it came up on the other side of the field at the same 
equable pace; the glistening brass star in the forehead of the 
fore horse first catching the eye as it rose into view over the 
stubble, then the bright arms, and then the whole machine. 

The narrow lane of stubble encompassing the field grew 
wider with each circuit, and the standing corn was reduced 
to a smaller area as the morning wore on. Rabbits, hares, 



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snakes, rats, mice, retreated inwards as into a fastness, un- 
aware of the ephemeral nature of their refuge, and of the 
doom that awaited them later in the day when, their covert 
shrinking to a more and more horrible narrowness, they 
were huddled together, friends and foes, till the last few 
yards of upright wheat fell also under the teeth of the un- 
erring reaper, and they were every one put to death by the 
sticks and stones of the harvesters. 

The reaping-machine left the fallen corn behind it in lit- 
tle heaps, each heap being of the quantity for a sheaf; and 
upon these the active binders in the rear laid their hands — 
mainly women, but some of them men in print shirts, and 
trousers supported round their waists by leather straps, ren- 
dering useless the two buttons behind, which twinkled and 
bristled with sunbeams at every movement of each wearer, 
as if they were a pair of eyes in the small of his back. 

But those of the other sex were the most interesting of 
this company of binders, by reason of the charm which is 
acquired by woman when she becomes part and parcel of 
outdoor nature, and is not merely an object set down there- 
in as at ordinary times. A field-man is a personality afield; a 
field -woman is a portion of the field; she had somehow lost 
her own margin, imbibed the essence of her surrounding, 
and assimilated herself with it. 

The women — or rather girls, for they were mostly young — 
wore drawn cotton bonnets with great flapping curtains to 
keep off the sun, and gloves to prevent their hands being 
wounded by the stubble. There was one wearing a pale pink 
jacket, another in a cream-coloured tight-sleeved gown, 



128 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



another in a petticoat as red as the arms of the reaping-ma- 
chine; and others, older, in the brown-rough 'wropper' or 
over-all — the old-established and most appropriate dress of 
the field-woman, which the young ones were abandoning. 
This morning the eye returns involuntarily to the girl in the 
pink cotton jacket, she being the most fiexuous and finely- 
drawn figure of them all. But her bonnet is pulled so far 
over her brow that none of her face is disclosed while she 
binds, though her complexion may be guessed from a stray 
twine or two of dark brown hair which extends below the 
curtain of her bonnet. Perhaps one reason why she seduces 
casual attention is that she never courts it, though the other 
women often gaze around them. 

Her binding proceeds with clock-like monotony. From 
the sheaf last finished she draws a handful of ears, patting 
their tips with her left palm to bring them even. Then, stoop- 
ing low, she moves forward, gathering the corn with both 
hands against her knees, and pushing her left gloved hand 
under the bundle to meet the right on the other side, hold- 
ing the corn in an embrace like that of a lover. She brings the 
ends of the bond together, and kneels on the sheaf while she 
ties it, beating back her skirts now and then when lifted by 
the breeze. A bit of her naked arm is visible between the buff 
leather of the gauntlet and the sleeve of her gown; and as the 
day wears on its feminine smoothness becomes scarified by 
the stubble and bleeds. 

At intervals she stands up to rest, and to retie her disar- 
ranged apron, or to pull her bonnet straight. Then one can 
see the oval face of a handsome young woman with deep 



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dark eyes and long heavy clinging tresses, which seem to 
clasp in a beseeching way anything they fall against. The 
cheeks are paler, the teeth more regular, the red lips thinner 
than is usual in a country-bred girl. 

It is Tess Durbeyfield, otherwise d'Urberville, somewhat 
changed — the same, but not the same; at the present stage of 
her existence living as a stranger and an alien here, though 
it was no strange land that she was in. After a long seclusion 
she had come to a resolve to undertake outdoor work in her 
native village, the busiest season of the year in the agricul- 
tural world having arrived, and nothing that she could do 
within the house being so remunerative for the time as har- 
vesting in the fields. 

The movements of the other women were more or less 
similar to Tess's, the whole bevy of them drawing together 
like dancers in a quadrille at the completion of a sheaf by 
each, every one placing her sheaf on end against those of the 
rest, till a shock, or 'stitch' as it was here called, often or a 
dozen was formed. 

They went to breakfast, and came again, and the work 
proceeded as before. As the hour of eleven drew near a per- 
son watching her might have noticed that every now and 
then Tess's glance flitted wistfully to the brow of the hill, 
though she did not pause in her sheafing. On the verge of 
the hour the heads of a group of children, of ages ranging 
from six to fourteen, rose over the stubbly convexity of the 
hill. 

The face of Tess flushed slightly, but still she did not 
pause. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



The eldest of the comers, a girl who wore a triangular 
shawl, its corner draggling on the stubble, carried in her 
arms what at first sight seemed to be a doll, but proved to be 
an infant in long clothes. Another brought some lunch. The 
harvesters ceased working, took their provisions, and sat 
down against one of the shocks. Here they fell to, the men 
plying a stone jar freely, and passing round a cup. 

Tess Durbeyfield had been one of the last to suspend 
her labours. She sat down at the end of the shock, her face 
turned somewhat away from her companions. When she 
had deposited herself a man in a rabbit-skin cap, and with 
a red handkerchief tucked into his belt, held the cup of ale 
over the top of the shock for her to drink. But she did not 
accept his offer. As soon as her lunch was spread she called 
up the big girl, her sister, and took the baby of her, who, glad 
to be relieved of the burden, went away to the next shock 
and joined the other children playing there. Tess, with a cu- 
riously stealthy yet courageous movement, and with a still 
rising colour, unfastened her frock and began suckling the 
child. 

The men who sat nearest considerately turned their faces 
towards the other end of the field, some of them beginning 
to smoke; one, with absent-minded fondness, regretfully 
stroking the jar that would no longer yield a stream. All the 
women but Tess fell into animated talk, and adjusted the 
disarranged knots of their hair. 

When the infant had taken its fill, the young mother sat 
it upright in her lap, and looking into the far distance, dan- 
dled it with a gloomy indifference that was almost dislike; 



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then all of a sudden she fell to violently kissing it some doz- 
ens of times, as if she could never leave off, the child crying 
at the vehemence of an onset which strangely combined 
passionateness with contempt. 

'She's fond of that there child, though she mid pretend to 
hate en, and say she wishes the baby and her too were in the 
churchyard,' observed the woman in the red petticoat. 

'She'll soon leave off saying that,' replied the one in buff. 
'Lord, 'tis wonderful what a body can get used to o' that sort 
in time!' 

'A little more than persuading had to do wi' the coming 
o't, I reckon. There were they that heard a sobbing one night 
last year in The Chase; and it mid ha' gone hard wi' a certain 
party if folks had come along.' 

'Well, a little more, or a little less, 'twas a thousand pit- 
ies that it should have happened to she, of all others. But 'tis 
always the comeliest! The plain ones be as safe as church- 
es — hey, Jenny?' The speaker turned to one of the group 
who certainly was not ill-defined as plain. 

It was a thousand pities, indeed; it was impossible for 
even an enemy to feel otherwise on looking at Tess as she 
sat there, with her flower-like mouth and large tender eyes, 
neither black nor blue nor grey nor violet; rather all those 
shades together, and a hundred others, which could be seen 
if one looked into their irises — shade behind shade — tint 
beyond tint — around pupils that had no bottom; an almost 
standard woman, but for the slight incautiousness of char- 
acter inherited from her race. 

A resolution which had surprised herself had brought 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



her into the fields this week for the first time during many 
months. After wearing and wasting her palpitating heart 
with every engine of regret that lonely inexperience could 
devise, common sense had illuminated her. She felt that she 
would do well to be useful again — to taste anew sweet in- 
dependence at any price. The past was past; whatever it had 
been, it was no more at hand. Whatever its consequences, 
time would close over them; they would all in a few years 
be as if they had never been, and she herself grassed down 
and forgotten. Meanwhile the trees were just as green as be- 
fore; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now as ever. 
The familiar surroundings had not darkened because of her 
grief, nor sickened because of her pain. 

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so 
profoundly — the thought of the world's concern at her situ- 
ation — was founded on an illusion. She was not an existence, 
an experience, a passion, a structure of sensations, to any- 
body but herself. To all humankind besides, Tess was only 
a passing thought. Even to friends she was no more than a 
frequently passing thought. If she made herself miserable 
the livelong night and day it was only this much to them — 
Ah, she makes herself unhappy' If she tried to be cheerful, 
to dismiss all care, to take pleasure in the daylight, the flow- 
ers, the baby, she could only be this idea to them — Ah, she 
bears it very well.' Moreover, alone in a desert island would 
she have been wretched at what had happened to her? Not 
greatly. If she could have been but just created, to discover 
herself as a spouseless mother, with no experience of life 
except as the parent of a nameless child, would the posi- 



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tion have caused her to despair? No, she would have taken it 
calmly, and found pleasure therein. Most of the misery had 
been generated by her conventional aspect, and not by her 
innate sensations. 

Whatever Tess's reasoning, some spirit had induced her 
to dress herself up neatly as she had formerly done, and 
come out into the fields, harvest-hands being greatly in de- 
mand just then. This was why she had borne herself with 
dignity, and had looked people calmly in the face at times, 
even when holding the baby in her arms. 

The harvest-men rose from the shock of corn, and 
stretched their limbs, and extinguished their pipes. The 
horses, which had been unharnessed and fed, were again 
attached to the scarlet machine. Tess, having quickly eat- 
en her own meal, beckoned to her eldest sister to come and 
take away the baby, fastened her dress, put on the buff gloves 
again, and stooped anew to draw a bond from the last com- 
pleted sheaf for the tying of the next. 

In the afternoon and evening the proceedings of the 
morning were continued, Tess staying on till dusk with the 
body of harvesters. Then they all rode home in one of the 
largest wagons, in the company of a broad tarnished moon 
that had risen from the ground to the eastwards, its face 
resembling the outworn gold-leaf halo of some worm-eat- 
en Tuscan saint. Tess's female companions sang songs, and 
showed themselves very sympathetic and glad at her reap- 
pearance out of doors, though they could not refrain from 
mischievously throwing in a few verses of the ballad about 
the maid who went to the merry green wood and came back 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



a changed state. There are counterpoises and compensa- 
tions in life; and the event which had made of her a social 
warning had also for the moment made her the most inter- 
esting personage in the village to many. Their friendliness 
won her still farther away from herself, their lively spirits 
were contagious, and she became almost gay. 

But now that her moral sorrows were passing away a 
fresh one arose on the natural side of her which knew no 
social law. When she reached home it was to learn to her 
grief that the baby had been suddenly taken ill since the af- 
ternoon. Some such collapse had been probable, so tender 
and puny was its frame; but the event came as a shock nev- 
ertheless. 

The baby's offence against society in coming into the 
world was forgotten by the girl-mother; her soul's desire was 
to continue that offence by preserving the life of the child. 
However, it soon grew clear that the hour of emancipation 
for that little prisoner of the flesh was to arrive earlier than 
her worst misgiving had conjectured. And when she had 
discovered this she was plunged into a misery which tran- 
scended that of the child's simple loss. Her baby had not 
been baptized. 

Tess had drifted into a frame of mind which accepted 
passively the consideration that if she should have to burn 
for what she had done, burn she must, and there was an 
end of it. Like all village girls, she was well grounded in the 
Holy Scriptures, and had dutifully studied the histories of 
Aholah and Aholibah, and knew the inferences to be drawn 
therefrom. But when the same question arose with regard 



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to the baby, it had a very different colour. Her darling was 
about to die, and no salvation. 

It was nearly bedtime, but she rushed downstairs and 
asked if she might send for the parson. The moment hap- 
pened to be one at which her father's sense of the antique 
nobility of his family was highest, and his sensitiveness to 
the smudge which Tess had set upon that nobility most pro- 
nounced, for he had just returned from his weekly booze 
at Rolliver's Inn. No parson should come inside his door, 
he declared, prying into his affairs, just then, when, by her 
shame, it had become more necessary than ever to hide 
them. He locked the door and put the key in his pocket. 

The household went to bed, and, distressed beyond mea- 
sure, Tess retired also. She was continually waking as she 
lay, and in the middle of the night found that the baby was 
still worse. It was obviously dying — quietly and painlessly, 
but none the less surely. 

In her misery she rocked herself upon the bed. The clock 
struck the solemn hour of one, that hour when fancy stalks 
outside reason, and malignant possibilities stand rock-firm 
as facts. She thought of the child consigned to the nether- 
most corner of hell, as its double doom for lack of baptism 
and lack of legitimacy; saw the arch-fiend tossing it with his 
three-pronged fork, like the one they used for heating the 
oven on baking days; to which picture she added many oth- 
er quaint and curious details of torment sometimes taught 
the young in this Christian country. The lurid presentment 
so powerfully affected her imagination in the silence of the 
sleeping house that her nightgown became damp with per- 



136 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



spiration, and the bedstead shook with each throb of her 
heart. 

The infant's breathing grew more difficult, and the moth- 
er's mental tension increased. It was useless to devour the 
little thing with kisses; she could stay in bed no longer, and 
walked feverishly about the room. 

'O merciful God, have pity; have pity upon my poor 
baby!' she cried. 'Heap as much anger as you want to upon 
me, and welcome; but pity the child!' 

She leant against the chest of drawers, and murmured 
incoherent supplications for a long while, till she suddenly 
started up. 

'Ah! perhaps baby can be saved! Perhaps it will be just 
the same!' 

She spoke so brightly that it seemed as though her face 
might have shone in the gloom surrounding her. She lit 
a candle, and went to a second and a third bed under the 
wall, where she awoke her young sisters and brothers, all 
of whom occupied the same room. Pulling out the wash- 
ing-stand so that she could get behind it, she poured some 
water from a jug, and made them kneel around, putting 
their hands together with fingers exactly vertical. While the 
children, scarcely awake, awe-stricken at her manner, their 
eyes growing larger and larger, remained in this position, 
she took the baby from her bed — a child's child — so imma- 
ture as scarce to seem a sufficient personality to endow its 
producer with the maternal title. Tess then stood erect with 
the infant on her arm beside the basin; the next sister held 
the Prayer-Book open before her, as the clerk at church held 



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it before the parson; and thus the girl set about baptizing 
her child. 

Her figure looked singularly tall and imposing as she 
stood in her long white nightgown, a thick cable of twist- 
ed dark hair hanging straight down her back to her waist. 
The kindly dimness of the weak candle abstracted from her 
form and features the little blemishes which sunlight might 
have revealed — the stubble scratches upon her wrists, and 
the weariness of her eyes — her high enthusiasm having a 
transfiguring effect upon the face which had been her un- 
doing, showing it as a thing of immaculate beauty, with 
a touch of dignity which was almost regal. The little ones 
kneeling round, their sleepy eyes blinking and red, await- 
ed her preparations full of a suspended wonder which their 
physical heaviness at that hour would not allow to become 
active. 

The most impressed of them said: 

'Be you really going to christen him, Tess?' 

The girl-mother replied in a grave affirmative. 

'What's his name going to be?' 

She had not thought of that, but a name suggested by 
a phrase in the book of Genesis came into her head as she 
proceeded with the baptismal service, and now she pro- 
nounced it: 

'SORROW, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and 
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' 

She sprinkled the water, and there was silence. 

'Say 'Amen,' children.' 

The tiny voices piped in obedient response, 'Amen!' 



138 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Tess went on: 

'We receive this child' — and so forth — 'and do sign him 
with the sign of the Cross.' 

Here she dipped her hand into the basin, and fervently 
drew an immense cross upon the baby with her forefinger, 
continuing with the customary sentences as to his manful- 
ly fighting against sin, the world, and the devil, and being 
a faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end. She duly 
went on with the Lord's Prayer, the children lisping it after 
her in a thin gnat-like wail, till, at the conclusion, raising 
their voices to clerk's pitch, they again piped into silence, 
Amen!' 

Then their sister, with much augmented confidence in 
the efficacy of the sacrament, poured forth from the bottom 
of her heart the thanksgiving that follows, uttering it bold- 
ly and triumphantly in the stopt-diapason note which her 
voice acquired when her heart was in her speech, and which 
will never be forgotten by those who knew her. The ecstasy 
of faith almost apotheosized her; it set upon her face a glow- 
ing irradiation, and brought a red spot into the middle of 
each cheek; while the miniature candle-flame inverted in 
her eye-pupils shone like a diamond. The children gazed up 
at her with more and more reverence, and no longer had a 
will for questioning. She did not look like Sissy to them now, 
but as a being large, towering, and awful — a divine person- 
age with whom they had nothing in common. 

Poor Sorrow's campaign against sin, the world, and the 
devil was doomed to be of limited brilliancy — luckily per- 
haps for himself, considering his beginnings. In the blue of 



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the morning that fragile soldier and servant breathed his 
last, and when the other children awoke they cried bitterly, 
and begged Sissy to have another pretty baby. 

The calmness which had possessed Tess since the chris- 
tening remained with her in the infant's loss. In the daylight, 
indeed, she felt her terrors about his soul to have been some- 
what exaggerated; whether well founded or not, she had no 
uneasiness now, reasoning that if Providence would not rat- 
ify such an act of approximation she, for one, did not value 
the kind of heaven lost by the irregularity — either for her- 
self or for her child. 

So passed away Sorrow the Undesired — that intrusive 
creature, that bastard gift of shameless Nature, who re- 
spects not the social law; a waif to whom eternal Time had 
been a matter of days merely, who knew not that such things 
as years and centuries ever were; to whom the cottage inte- 
rior was the universe, the week's weather climate, new-born 
babyhood human existence, and the instinct to suck human 
knowledge. 

Tess, who mused on the christening a good deal, won- 
dered if it were doctrinally sufficient to secure a Christian 
burial for the child. Nobody could tell this but the parson of 
the parish, and he was a new-comer, and did not know her. 
She went to his house after dusk, and stood by the gate, but 
could not summon courage to go in. The enterprise would 
have been abandoned if she had not by accident met him 
coming homeward as she turned away. In the gloom she did 
not mind speaking freely. 

'I should like to ask you something, sir.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



He expressed his willingness to listen, and she told the 
story of the baby's illness and the extemporized ordinance. 
'And now, sir,' she added earnestly, 'can you tell me this — 
will it be just the same for him as if you had baptized him?' 

Having the natural feelings of a tradesman at finding 
that a job he should have been called in for had been unskil- 
fully botched by his customers among themselves, he was 
disposed to say no. Yet the dignity of the girl, the strange 
tenderness in her voice, combined to affect his nobler im- 
pulses — or rather those that he had left in him after ten 
years of endeavour to graft technical belief on actual scepti- 
cism. The man and the ecclesiastic fought within him, and 
the victory fell to the man. 

'My dear girl,' he said, 'it will be just the same.' 

'Then will you give him a Christian burial?' she asked 
quickly. 

The Vicar felt himself cornered. Hearing of the baby's 
illness, he had conscientiously gone to the house after 
nightfall to perform the rite, and, unaware that the refus- 
al to admit him had come from Tess's father and not from 
Tess, he could not allow the plea of necessity for its irregular 
administration. 

'Ah — that's another matter,' he said. 

Another matter — why?' asked Tess, rather warmly. 

'Well — I would willingly do so if only we two were con- 
cerned. But I must not — for certain reasons.' 

'Just for once, sir!' 

'Really I must not.' 

'O sir!' She seized his hand as she spoke. 



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He withdrew it, shaking his head. 

'Then I don't like you!' she burst out, 'and I'll never come 
to your church no more!' 

'Don't talk so rashly' 

'Perhaps it will be just the same to him if you don't? ... 
Will it be just the same? Don't for God's sake speak as saint 
to sinner, but as you yourself to me myself — poor me!' 

How the Vicar reconciled his answer with the strict 
notions he supposed himself to hold on these subjects it 
is beyond a layman's power to tell, though not to excuse. 
Somewhat moved, he said in this case also — 

'It will be just the same.' 

So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an 
ancient woman's shawl, to the churchyard that night, and 
buried by lantern-light, at the cost of a shilling and a pint of 
beer to the sexton, in that shabby corner of God's allotment 
where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized 
infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the 
conjecturally damned are laid. In spite of the untoward sur- 
roundings, however, Tess bravely made a little cross of two 
laths and a piece of string, and having bound it with flowers, 
she stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when 
she could enter the churchyard without being seen, put- 
ting at the foot also a bunch of the same flowers in a little 
jar of water to keep them alive. What matter was it that on 
the outside of the jar the eye of mere observation noted the 
words 'Keelwell's Marmalade'? The eye of maternal affec- 
tion did not see them in its vision of higher things. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XV 



'By experience,' says Roger Ascham, 'we find out a short 
way by a long wandering.' Not seldom that long wandering 
unfits us for further travel, and of what use is our experi- 
ence to us then? Tess Durbeyfield's experience was of this 
incapacitating kind. At last she had learned what to do; but 
who would now accept her doing? 

If before going to the d'Urbervilles' she had vigorous- 
ly moved under the guidance of sundry gnomic texts and 
phrases known to her and to the world in general, no doubt 
she would never have been imposed on. But it had not been 
in Tess's power — nor is it in anybody's power — to feel the 
whole truth of golden opinions while it is possible to profit 
by them. She — and how many more — might have ironically 
said to God with Saint Augustine: "Thou hast counselled a 
better course than Thou hast permitted.' 

She remained at her father's house during the winter 
months, plucking fowls, or cramming turkeys and geese, or 
making clothes for her sisters and brothers out of some fin- 
ery which d'Urberville had given her, and she had put by 
with contempt. Apply to him she would not. But she would 
often clasp her hands behind her head and muse when she 
was supposed to be working hard. 

She philosophically noted dates as they came past in the 
revolution of the year; the disastrous night of her undoing at 



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Trantridge with its dark background of The Chase; also the 
dates of the baby's birth and death; also her own birthday; 
and every other day individualized by incidents in which 
she had taken some share. She suddenly thought one after- 
noon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there 
was yet another date, of greater importance to her than 
those; that of her own death, when all these charms would 
have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among 
all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when 
she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. 
When was it? Why did she not feel the chill of each yearly 
encounter with such a cold relation? She had Jeremy Taylor's 
thought that some time in the future those who had known 

her would say: 'It is the th, the day that poor Tess Dur- 

beyfield died"; and there would be nothing singular to their 
minds in the statement. Of that day, doomed to be her ter- 
minus in time through all the ages, she did not know the 
place in month, week, season or year. 

Almost at a leap Tess thus changed from simple girl to 
complex woman. Symbols of reflectiveness passed into her 
face, and a note of tragedy at times into her voice. Her eyes 
grew larger and more eloquent. She became what would have 
been called a fine creature; her aspect was fair and arresting; 
her soul that of a woman whom the turbulent experiences of 
the last year or two had quite failed to demoralize. But for 
the world's opinion those experiences would have been sim- 
ply a liberal education. 

She had held so aloof of late that her trouble, never gener- 
ally known, was nearly forgotten in Marlott. But it became 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



evident to her that she could never be really comfortable 
again in a place which had seen the collapse of her fam- 
ily's attempt to 'claim kin' — and, through her, even closer 
union — with the rich d'Urbervilles. At least she could not 
be comfortable there till long years should have obliterated 
her keen consciousness of it. Yet even now Tess felt the pulse 
of hopeful life still warm within her; she might be happy in 
some nook which had no memories. To escape the past and 
all that appertained thereto was to annihilate it, and to do 
that she would have to get away. 

Was once lost always lost really true of chastity? she 
would ask herself. She might prove it false if she could veil 
bygones. The recuperative power which pervaded organic 
nature was surely not denied to maidenhood alone. 

She waited a long time without finding opportunity for a 
new departure. A particularly fine spring came round, and 
the stir of germination was almost audible in the buds; it 
moved her, as it moved the wild animals, and made her pas- 
sionate to go. At last, one day in early May, a letter reached 
her from a former friend of her mother's, to whom she had 
addressed inquiries long before — a person whom she had 
never seen — that a skilful milkmaid was required at a dairy- 
house many miles to the southward, and that the dairyman 
would be glad to have her for the summer months. 

It was not quite so far off as could have been wished; but 
it was probably far enough, her radius of movement and re- 
pute having been so small. To persons of limited spheres, 
miles are as geographical degrees, parishes as counties, 
counties as provinces and kingdoms. 



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On one point she was resolved: there should be no more 
d'Urberville air-castles in the dreams and deeds of her new 
life. She would be the dairymaid Tess, and nothing more. 
Her mother knew Tess's feeling on this point so well, though 
no words had passed between them on the subject, that she 
never alluded to the knightly ancestry now. 

Yet such is human inconsistency that one of the interests 
of the new place to her was the accidental virtues of its lying 
near her forefathers' country (for they were not Blakemore 
men, though her mother was Blakemore to the bone). The 
dairy called Talbothays, for which she was bound, stood not 
remotelyfrom some of the former estates ofthed'Urbervilles, 
near the great family vaults of her granddames and their 
powerful husbands. She would be able to look at them, and 
think not only that d'Urberville, like Babylon, had fallen, 
but that the individual innocence of a humble descendant 
could lapse as silently. All the while she wondered if any 
strange good thing might come of her being in her ancestral 
land; and some spirit within her rose automatically as the 
sap in the twigs. It was unexpected youth, surging up anew 
after its temporary check, and bringing with it hope, and 
the invincible instinct towards self-delight. 

END OF PHASE THE SECOND 



146 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Phase the Third: The Rally 



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XVI 



On a thyme-scented, bird-hatching morning in May, 
between two and three years after the return from Trant- 
ridge — silent, reconstructive years for TessDurbeyfield — she 
left her home for the second time. 

Having packed up her luggage so that it could be sent 
to her later, she started in a hired trap for the little town 
of Stourcastle, through which it was necessary to pass on 
her journey, now in a direction almost opposite to that of 
her first adventuring. On the curve of the nearest hill she 
looked back regretfully at Marlott and her father's house, 
although she had been so anxious to get away. 

Her kindred dwelling there would probably continue 
their daily lives as heretofore, with no great diminution of 
pleasure in their consciousness, although she would be far 
off, and they deprived of her smile. In a few days the chil- 
dren would engage in their games as merrily as ever, without 
the sense of any gap left by her departure. This leaving of the 
younger children she had decided to be for the best; were 
she to remain they would probably gain less good by her 
precepts than harm by her example. 

She went through Stourcastle without pausing and on- 
ward to a junction of highways, where she could await a 
carrier's van that ran to the south-west; for the railways 
which engirdled this interior tract of country had never yet 



148 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



struck across it. While waiting, however, there came along 
a farmer in his spring cart, driving approximately in the di- 
rection that she wished to pursue. Though he was a stranger 
to her she accepted his offer of a seat beside him, ignor- 
ing that its motive was a mere tribute to her countenance. 
He was going to Weatherbury, and by accompanying him 
thither she could walk the remainder of the distance instead 
of travelling in the van by way of Casterbridge. 

Tess did not stop at Weatherbury, after this long drive, 
further than to make a slight nondescript meal at noon at a 
cottage to which the farmer recommended her. Thence she 
started on foot, basket in hand, to reach the wide upland of 
heath dividing this district from the low-lying meads of a 
further valley in which the dairy stood that was the aim and 
end of her day's pilgrimage. 

Tess had never before visited this part of the country, and 
yet she felt akin to the landscape. Not so very far to the left 
of her she could discern a dark patch in the scenery, which 
inquiry confirmed her in supposing to be trees marking 
the environs of Kingsbere — in the church of which parish 
the bones of her ancestors — her useless ancestors — lay en- 
tombed. 

She had no admiration for them now; she almost hated 
them for the dance they had led her; not a thing of all that 
had been theirs did she retain but the old seal and spoon. 
'Pooh — I have as much of mother as father in me!' she said. 
'All my prettiness comes from her, and she was only a dairy- 
maid.' 

The journey over the intervening uplands and lowlands 



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of Egdon, when she reached them, was a more troublesome 
walk than she had anticipated, the distance being actually 
but a few miles. It was two hours, owing to sundry wrong 
turnings, ere she found herself on a summit commanding 
the long-sought-for vale, the Valley of the Great Dairies, 
the valley in which milk and butter grew to rankness, and 
were produced more profusely, if less delicately, than at her 
home — the verdant plain so well watered by the river Var 
or Froom. 

It was intrinsically different from the Vale of Little Dair- 
ies, Blackmoor Vale, which, save during her disastrous 
sojourn at Trantridge, she had exclusively known till now. 
The world was drawn to a larger pattern here. The enclo- 
sures numbered fifty acres instead of ten, the farmsteads 
were more extended, the groups of cattle formed tribes 
hereabout; there only families. These myriads of cows 
stretching under her eyes from the far east to the far west 
outnumbered any she had ever seen at one glance before. 
The green lea was speckled as thickly with them as a canvas 
by Van Alsloot or Sallaert with burghers. The ripe hue of 
the red and dun kine absorbed the evening sunlight, which 
the white-coated animals returned to the eye in rays almost 
dazzling, even at the distant elevation on which she stood. 

The bird's-eye perspective before her was not so luxuri- 
antly beautiful, perhaps, as that other one which she knew 
so well; yet it was more cheering. It lacked the intensely 
blue atmosphere of the rival vale, and its heavy soils and 
scents; the new air was clear, bracing, ethereal. The river it- 
self, which nourished the grass and cows of these renowned 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



dairies, flowed not like the streams in Blackmoor. Those 
were slow, silent, often turbid; flowing over beds of mud 
into which the incautious wader might sink and vanish un- 
awares. The Froom waters were clear as the pure River of 
Life shown to the Evangelist, rapid as the shadow of a cloud, 
with pebbly shallows that prattled to the sky all day long. 
There the water-flower was the lily; the crow-foot here. 

Either the change in the quality of the air from heavy 
to light, or the sense of being amid new scenes where there 
were no invidious eyes upon her, sent up her spirits won- 
derfully. Her hopes mingled with the sunshine in an ideal 
photosphere which surrounded her as she bounded along 
against the soft south wind. She heard a pleasant voice in 
every breeze, and in every bird's note seemed to lurk a joy. 

Her face had latterly changed with changing states of 
mind, continually fluctuating between beauty and ordi- 
nariness, according as the thoughts were gay or grave. One 
day she was pink and flawless; another pale and tragical. 
When she was pink she was feeling less than when pale; her 
more perfect beauty accorded with her less elevated mood; 
her more intense mood with her less perfect beauty. It was 
her best face physically that was now set against the south 
wind. 

The irresistible, universal, automatic tendency to find 
sweet pleasure somewhere, which pervades all life, from the 
meanest to the highest, had at length mastered Tess. Being 
even now only a young woman of twenty, one who mentally 
and sentimentally had not finished growing, it was impos- 
sible that any event should have left upon her an impression 



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that was not in time capable of transmutation. 

And thus her spirits, and her thankfulness, and her 
hopes, rose higher and higher. She tried several ballads, but 
found them inadequate; till, recollecting the psalter that her 
eyes had so often wandered over of a Sunday morning be- 
fore she had eaten of the tree of knowledge, she chanted: 'O 
ye Sun and Moon ... O ye Stars ... ye Green Things upon the 
Earth ... ye Fowls of the Air ... Beasts and Cattle ... Children 
of Men ... bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him 
for ever!' 

She suddenly stopped and murmured: 'But perhaps I 
don't quite know the Lord as yet.' 

And probably the half-unconscious rhapsody was a Fe- 
tishistic utterance in a Monotheistic setting; women whose 
chief companions are the forms and forces of outdoor Na- 
ture retain in their souls far more of the Pagan fantasy of 
their remote forefathers than of the systematized religion 
taught their race at later date. However, Tess found at least 
approximate expression for her feelings in the old Benedic- 
ite that she had lisped from infancy; and it was enough. Such 
high contentment with such a slight initial performance as 
that of having started towards a means of independent liv- 
ing was a part of the Durbeyfield temperament. Tess really 
wished to walk uprightly, while her father did nothing of 
the kind; but she resembled him in being content with im- 
mediate and small achievements, and in having no mind for 
laborious effort towards such petty social advancement as 
could alone be effected by a family so heavily handicapped 
as the once powerful d'Urbervilles were now. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



There was, it might be said, the energy of her mother's 
unexpended family, as well as the natural energy of Tess's 
years, rekindled after the experience which had so over- 
whelmed her for the time. Let the truth be told — women do 
as a rule live through such humiliations, and regain their 
spirits, and again look about them with an interested eye. 
While there's life there's hope is a conviction not so entirely 
unknown to the 'betrayed' as some amiable theorists would 
have us believe. 

Tess Durbeyfield, then, in good heart, and full of zest for 
life, descended the Egdon slopes lower and lower towards 
the dairy of her pilgrimage. 

The marked difference, in the final particular, between 
the rival vales now showed itself. The secret of Blackmoor 
was best discovered from the heights around; to read aright 
the valley before her it was necessary to descend into its 
midst. When Tess had accomplished this feat she found her- 
self to be standing on a carpeted level, which stretched to 
the east and west as far as the eye could reach. 

The river had stolen from the higher tracts and brought 
in particles to the vale all this horizontal land; and now, 
exhausted, aged, and attenuated, lay serpentining along 
through the midst of its former spoils. 

Not quite sure of her direction, Tess stood still upon the 
hemmed expanse of verdant flatness, like a fly on a billiard- 
table of indefinite length, and of no more consequence to the 
surroundings than that fly. The sole effect of her presence 
upon the placid valley so far had been to excite the mind of 
a solitary heron, which, after descending to the ground not 



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far from her path, stood with neck erect, looking at her. 

Suddenly there arose from all parts of the lowland a pro- 
longed and repeated call — 'Waow! waow! waow!' 

From the furthest east to the furthest west the cries 
spread as if by contagion, accompanied in some cases by 
the barking of a dog. It was not the expression of the val- 
ley's consciousness that beautiful Tess had arrived, but the 
ordinary announcement of milking-time — half-past four 
o'clock, when the dairymen set about getting in the cows. 

The red and white herd nearest at hand, which had been 
phlegmatically waiting for the call, now trooped towards the 
steading in the background, their great bags of milk swing- 
ing under them as they walked. Tess followed slowly in their 
rear, and entered the barton by the open gate through which 
they had entered before her. Long thatched sheds stretched 
round the enclosure, their slopes encrusted with vivid green 
moss, and their eaves supported by wooden posts rubbed 
to a glossy smoothness by the flanks of infinite cows and 
calves of bygone years, now passed to an oblivion almost in- 
conceivable in its profundity. Between the post were ranged 
the milchers, each exhibiting herself at the present moment 
to a whimsical eye in the rear as a circle on two stalks, down 
the centre of which a switch moved pendulum-wise; while 
the sun, lowering itself behind this patient row, threw their 
shadows accurately inwards upon the wall. Thus it threw 
shadows of these obscure and homely figures every evening 
with as much care over each contour as if it had been the 
profile of a court beauty on a palace wall; copied them as 
diligently as it had copied Olympian shapes on marble fa- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



fades long ago, or the outline of Alexander, Caesar, and the 
Pharaohs. 

They were the less restful cows that were stalled. Those 
that would stand still of their own will were milked in the 
middle of the yard, where many of such better behaved 
ones stood waiting now — all prime milchers, such as were 
seldom seen out of this valley, and not always within it; 
nourished by the succulent feed which the water-meads 
supplied at this prime season of the year. Those of them that 
were spotted with white reflected the sunshine in dazzling 
brilliancy, and the polished brass knobs of their horns glit- 
tered with something of military display. Their large -veined 
udders hung ponderous as sandbags, the teats sticking out 
like the legs of a gipsy's crock; and as each animal lingered 
for her turn to arrive the milk oozed forth and fell in drops 
to the ground. 



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XVII 



The dairymaids and men had flocked down from their 
cottages and out of the dairy-house with the arrival of the 
cows from the meads; the maids walking in pattens, not on 
account of the weather, but to keep their shoes above the 
mulch of the barton. Each girl sat down on her three-legged 
stool, her face sideways, her right cheek resting against 
the cow, and looked musingly along the animal's flank at 
Tess as she approached. The male milkers, with hat-brims 
turned down, resting flat on their foreheads and gazing on 
the ground, did not observe her. 

One of these was a sturdy middle-aged man — whose 
long white 'pinner' was somewhat finer and cleaner than 
the wraps of the others, and whose jacket underneath had 
a presentable marketing aspect — the master-dairyman, of 
whom she was in quest, his double character as a working 
milker and butter maker here during six days, and on the 
seventh as a man in shining broad-cloth in his family pew at 
church, being so marked as to have inspired a rhyme: 

Dairyman Dick 
All the week: — 
On Sundays Mister Richard Crick. 

Seeing Tess standing at gaze he went across to her. 



156 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



The majority of dairymen have a cross manner at milk- 
ing time, but it happened that Mr Crick was glad to get a 
new hand — for the days were busy ones now — and he re- 
ceived her warmly; inquiring for her mother and the rest 
of the family — (though this as a matter of form merely, for 
in reality he had not been aware of Mrs Durbeyfield's exis- 
tence till apprised of the fact by a brief business-letter about 
Tess). 

'Oh — ay, as a lad I knowed your part o' the country very 
well,' he said terminatively. 'Though I've never been there 
since. And a aged woman of ninety that use to live nigh 
here, but is dead and gone long ago, told me that a family of 
some such name as yours in Blackmoor Vale came original- 
ly from these parts, and that 'twere a old ancient race that 
had all but perished off the earth — though the new genera- 
tions didn't know it. But, Lord, I took no notice of the old 
woman's ramblings, not I.' 

'Oh no — it is nothing,' said Tess. 

Then the talk was of business only. 

'You can milk 'em clean, my maidy? I don't want my 
cows going azew at this time o' year.' 

She reassured him on that point, and he surveyed her up 
and down. She had been staying indoors a good deal, and 
her complexion had grown delicate. 

'Quite sure you can stand it? 'Tis comfortable enough here 
for rough folk; but we don't live in a cowcumber frame.' 

She declared that she could stand it, and her zest and 
willingness seemed to win him over. 

'Well, I suppose you'll want a dish o' tay, or victuals of 



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some sort, hey? Not yet? Well, do as ye like about it. But 
faith, if 'twas I, I should be as dry as a kex wi' travelling so 
far.' 

'I'll begin milking now, to get my hand in,' said Tess. 

She drank a little milk as temporary refreshment — to the 
surprise — indeed, slight contempt — of Dairyman Crick, to 
whose mind it had apparently never occurred that milk was 
good as a beverage. 

'Oh, if ye can swaller that, be it so,' he said indifferently, 
while holding up the pail that she sipped from. "Tis what I 
hain't touched for years — not I. Rot the stuff; it would lie in 
my innerds like lead. You can try your hand upon she,' he 
pursued, nodding to the nearest cow. 'Not but what she do 
milk rather hard. We've hard ones and we've easy ones, like 
other folks. However, you'll find out that soon enough.' 

When Tess had changed her bonnet for a hood, and was 
really on her stool under the cow, and the milk was squirt- 
ing from her fists into the pail, she appeared to feel that she 
really had laid a new foundation for her future. The convic- 
tion bred serenity, her pulse slowed, and she was able to look 
about her. 

The milkers formed quite a little battalion of men and 
maids, the men operating on the hard-teated animals, the 
maids on the kindlier natures. It was a large dairy. There 
were nearly a hundred milchers under Crick's management, 
all told; and of the herd the master-dairyman milked six or 
eight with his own hands, unless away from home. These 
were the cows that milked hardest of all; for his journey- 
milkmen being more or less casually hired, he would not 



158 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



entrust this half-dozen to their treatment, lest, from indif- 
ference, they should not milk them fully; nor to the maids, 
lest they should fail in the same way for lack of finger-grip; 
with the result that in course of time the cows would 'go 
azew' — that is, dry up. It was not the loss for the moment 
that made slack milking so serious, but that with the decline 
of demand there came decline, and ultimately cessation, of 
supply. 

After Tess had settled down to her cow there was for a 
time no talk in the barton, and not a sound interfered with 
the purr of the milk-jets into the numerous pails, except 
a momentary exclamation to one or other of the beasts 
requesting her to turn round or stand still. The only move- 
ments were those of the milkers' hands up and down, and 
the swing of the cows' tails. Thus they all worked on, en- 
compassed by the vast flat mead which extended to either 
slope of the valley — a level landscape compounded of old 
landscapes long forgotten, and, no doubt, differing in char- 
acter very greatly from the landscape they composed now. 

'To my thinking,' said the dairyman, rising suddenly 
from a cow he had just finished off, snatching up his three- 
legged stool in one hand and the pail in the other, and 
moving on to the next hard-yielder in his vicinity, 'to my 
thinking, the cows don't gie down their milk to-day as usu- 
al. Upon my life, if Winker do begin keeping back like this, 
she'll not be worth going under by midsummer.' 

"Tis because there's a new hand come among us,' said 
Jonathan Kail. 'I've noticed such things afore.' 

'To be sure. It may be so. I didn't think o't.' 



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'I've been told that it goes up into their horns at such 
times,' said a dairymaid. 

'Well, as to going up into their horns,' replied Dairyman 
Crick dubiously, as though even witchcraft might be limited 
by anatomical possibilities, 'I couldn't say; I certainly could 
not. But as nott cows will keep it back as well as the horned 
ones, I don't quite agree to it. Do ye know that riddle about 
the nott cows, Jonathan? Why do nott cows give less milk in 
a year than horned?' 

'I don't!' interposed the milkmaid, 'Why do they?' 

'Because there bain't so many of 'em,' said the dairyman. 
'Howsomever, these gam'sters do certainly keep back their 
milk to-day. Folks, we must lift up a stave or two — that's the 
only cure for't.' 

Songs were often resorted to in dairies hereabout as an 
enticement to the cows when they showed signs of with- 
holding their usual yield; and the band of milkers at this 
request burst into melody — in purely business-like tones, it 
is true, and with no great spontaneity; the result, according 
to their own belief, being a decided improvement during 
the song's continuance. When they had gone through four- 
teen or fifteen verses of a cheerful ballad about a murderer 
who was afraid to go to bed in the dark because he saw cer- 
tain brimstone flames around him, one of the male milkers 
said — 

'I wish singing on the stoop didn't use up so much of a 
man's wind! You should get your harp, sir; not but what a 
fiddle is best.' 

Tess, who had given ear to this, thought the words were 



160 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



addressed to the dairyman, but she was wrong. A reply, in 
the shape of 'Why?' came as it were out of the belly of a dun 
cow in the stalls; it had been spoken by a milker behind the 
animal, whom she had not hitherto perceived. 

'Oh yes; there's nothing like a fiddle,' said the dairyman. 
"Though I do think that bulls are more moved by a tune 
than cows — at least that's my experience. Once there was an 
old aged man over at Mellstock — William Dewy by name — 
one of the family that used to do a good deal of business as 
tranters over there — Jonathan, do ye mind? — I knowed the 
man by sight as well as I know my own brother, in a man- 
ner of speaking. Well, this man was a coming home along 
from a wedding, where he had been playing his fiddle, one 
fine moonlight night, and for shortness' sake he took a cut 
across Forty-acres, a field lying that way, where a bull was 
out to grass. The bull seed William, and took after him, 
horns aground, begad; and though William runned his 
best, and hadn't MUCH drink in him (considering 'twas a 
wedding, and the folks well off), he found he'd never reach 
the fence and get over in time to save himself. Well, as a last 
thought, he pulled out his fiddle as he runned, and struck 
up a jig, turning to the bull, and backing towards the cor- 
ner. The bull softened down, and stood still, looking hard at 
William Dewy, who fiddled on and on; till a sort of a smile 
stole over the bull's face. But no sooner did William stop his 
playing and turn to get over hedge than the bull would stop 
his smiling and lower his horns towards the seat of Wil- 
liam's breeches. Well, William had to turn about and play 
on, willy-nilly; and 'twas only three o'clock in the world, 



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and 'a knowed that nobody would come that way for hours, 
and he so leery and tired that 'a didn't know what to do. 
When he had scraped till about four o'clock he felt that he 
verily would have to give over soon, and he said to himself, 
'There's only this last tune between me and eternal welfare! 
Heaven save me, or I'm a done man.' Well, then he called to 
mind how he'd seen the cattle kneel o' Christmas Eves in 
the dead o' night. It was not Christmas Eve then, but it came 
into his head to play a trick upon the bull. So he broke into 
the "Tivity Hymm, just as at Christmas carol-singing; when, 
lo and behold, down went the bull on his bended knees, in 
his ignorance, just as if 'twere the true 'Tivity night and hour. 
As soon as his horned friend were down, William turned, 
clinked off like a long-dog, and jumped safe over hedge, be- 
fore the praying bull had got on his feet again to take after 
him. William used to say that he'd seen a man look a fool a 
good many times, but never such a fool as that bull looked 
when he found his pious feelings had been played upon, and 
'twas not Christmas Eve. ... Yes, William Dewy, that was the 
man's name; and I can tell you to a foot where's he a-lying in 
Mellstock Churchyard at this very moment — just between 
the second yew-tree and the north aisle.' 

'It's a curious story; it carries us back to medieval times, 
when faith was a living thing!' 

The remark, singular for a dairy-yard, was murmured by 
the voice behind the dun cow; but as nobody understood 
the reference, no notice was taken, except that the narrator 
seemed to think it might imply scepticism as to his tale. 

Well, 'tis quite true, sir, whether or no. I knowed the 



162 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



man well.' 

'Oh yes; I have no doubt of it,' said the person behind the 
dun cow. 

Tess's attention was thus attracted to the dairyman's 
interlocutor, of whom she could see but the merest patch, 
owing to his burying his head so persistently in the flank 
of the milcher. She could not understand why he should be 
addressed as 'sir' even by the dairyman himself. But no ex- 
planation was discernible; he remained under the cow long 
enough to have milked three, uttering a private ejaculation 
now and then, as if he could not get on. 

'Take it gentle, sir; take it gentle,' said the dairyman. "Tis 
knack, not strength, that does it.' 

'So I find,' said the other, standing up at last and stretch- 
ing his arms. T think I have finished her, however, though 
she made my fingers ache.' 

Tess could then see him at full length. He wore the or- 
dinary white pinner and leather leggings of a dairy-farmer 
when milking, and his boots were clogged with the mulch 
of the yard; but this was all his local livery. Beneath it was 
something educated, reserved, subtle, sad, differing. 

But the details of his aspect were temporarily thrust 
aside by the discovery that he was one whom she had seen 
before. Such vicissitudes had Tess passed through since that 
time that for a moment she could not remember where she 
had met him; and then it flashed upon her that he was the 
pedestrian who had joined in the club-dance at Marlott — 
the passing stranger who had come she knew not whence, 
had danced with others but not with her, and slightingly left 



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163 



her, and gone on his way with his friends. 

The flood of memories brought back by this revival of 
an incident anterior to her troubles produced a momentary 
dismay lest, recognizing her also, he should by some means 
discover her story. But it passed away when she found no 
sign of remembrance in him. She saw by degrees that since 
their first and only encounter his mobile face had grown 
more thoughtful, and had acquired a young man's shapely 
moustache and beard — the latter of the palest straw colour 
where it began upon his cheeks, and deepening to a warm 
brown farther from its root. Under his linen milking-pinner 
he wore a dark velveteen jacket, cord breeches and gaiters, 
and a starched white shirt. Without the milking-gear no- 
body could have guessed what he was. He might with equal 
probability have been an eccentric landowner or a gentle- 
manly ploughman. That he was but a novice at dairy work 
she had realized in a moment, from the time he had spent 
upon the milking of one cow. 

Meanwhile many of the milkmaids had said to one 
another of the newcomer, 'How pretty she is!' with some- 
thing of real generosity and admiration, though with a half 
hope that the auditors would qualify the assertion — which, 
strictly speaking, they might have done, prettiness being 
an inexact definition of what struck the eye in Tess. When 
the milking was finished for the evening they straggled in- 
doors, where Mrs Crick, the dairyman's wife — who was 
too respectable to go out milking herself, and wore a hot 
stuff gown in warm weather because the dairymaids wore 
prints — was giving an eye to the leads and things. 



164 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Only two or three of the maids, Tess learnt, slept in the 
dairy-house besides herself, most of the helpers going to 
their homes. She saw nothing at supper-time of the supe- 
rior milker who had commented on the story, and asked 
no questions about him, the remainder of the evening be- 
ing occupied in arranging her place in the bed-chamber. It 
was a large room over the milk-house, some thirty feet long; 
the sleeping-cots of the other three indoor milkmaids being 
in the same apartment. They were blooming young women, 
and, except one, rather older than herself. By bedtime Tess 
was thoroughly tired, and fell asleep immediately. 

But one of the girls, who occupied an adjoining bed, was 
more wakeful than Tess, and would insist upon relating to 
the latter various particulars of the homestead into which 
she had just entered. The girl's whispered words mingled 
with the shades, and, to Tess's drowsy mind, they seemed to 
be generated by the darkness in which they floated. 

'Mr Angel Clare — he that is learning milking, and that 
plays the harp — never says much to us. He is a pa'son's son, 
and is too much taken up wi' his own thoughts to notice 
girls. He is the dairyman's pupil — learning farming in all 
its branches. He has learnt sheep-farming at another place, 
and he's now mastering dairy-work.... Yes, he is quite the 
gentleman-born. His father is the Reverent Mr Clare at Em- 
minster — a good many miles from here.' 

'Oh — I have heard of him,' said her companion, now 
awake. 'A very earnest clergyman, is he not?' 

'Yes — that he is — the earnestest man in all Wessex, they 
say — the last of the old Low Church sort, they tell me — for 



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165 



all about here be what they call High. All his sons, except 
our Mr Clare, be made pa'sons too.' 

Tess had not at this hour the curiosity to ask why the 
present Mr Clare was not made a parson like his brethren, 
and gradually fell asleep again, the words of her informant 
coming to her along with the smell of the cheeses in the ad- 
joining cheeseloft, and the measured dripping of the whey 
from the wrings downstairs. 



16(, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XVIII 



Angel Clare rises out of the past not altogether as a dis- 
tinct figure, but as an appreciative voice, a long regard of 
fixed, abstracted eyes, and a mobility of mouth somewhat 
too small and delicately lined for a man's, though with 
an unexpectedly firm close of the lower lip now and then; 
enough to do away with any inference of indecision. Nev- 
ertheless, something nebulous, preoccupied, vague, in his 
bearing and regard, marked him as one who probably had 
no very definite aim or concern about his material future. 
Yet as a lad people had said of him that he was one who 
might do anything if he tried. 

He was the youngest son of his father, a poor parson at 
the other end of the county, and had arrived at Talbothays 
Dairy as a six months' pupil, after going the round of some 
other farms, his object being to acquire a practical skill in 
the various processes of farming, with a view either to the 
Colonies or the tenure of a home-farm, as circumstances 
might decide. 

His entry into the ranks of the agriculturists and breed- 
ers was a step in the young man's career which had been 
anticipated neither by himself nor by others. 

Mr Clare the elder, whose first wife had died and left 
him a daughter, married a second late in life. This lady had 
somewhat unexpectedly brought him three sons, so that be- 



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167 



tween Angel, the youngest, and his father the Vicar there 
seemed to be almost a missing generation. Of these boys the 
aforesaid Angel, the child of his old age, was the only son 
who had not taken a University degree, though he was the 
single one of them whose early promise might have done 
full justice to an academical training. 

Some two or three years before Angel's appearance at the 
Marlott dance, on a day when he had left school and was 
pursuing his studies at home, a parcel came to the Vicarage 
from the local bookseller's, directed to the Reverend James 
Clare. The Vicar having opened it and found it to contain a 
book, read a few pages; whereupon he jumped up from his 
seat and went straight to the shop with the book under his 
arm. 

'Why has this been sent to my house?' he asked peremp- 
torily, holding up the volume. 

'It was ordered, sir.' 

'Not by me, or any one belonging to me, I am happy to 
say' 

The shopkeeper looked into his order-book. 

'Oh, it has been misdirected, sir,' he said. 'It was ordered 
by Mr Angel Clare, and should have been sent to him.' 

Mr Clare winced as if he had been struck. He went home 
pale and dejected, and called Angel into his study. 

'Look into this book, my boy' he said. 'What do you 
know about it?' 

'I ordered it,' said Angel simply. 

'What for?' 

'To read.' 



16.X 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'How can you think of reading it?' 

'How can I? Why — it is a system of philosophy. There is 
no more moral, or even religious, work published.' 

'Yes — moral enough; I don't deny that. But religious! — 
and for YOU, who intend to be a minister of the Gospel!' 

'Since you have alluded to the matter, father,' said the 
son, with anxious thought upon his face, 'I should like to 
say, once for all, that I should prefer not to take Orders. I 
fear I could not conscientiously do so. I love the Church as 
one loves a parent. I shall always have the warmest affec- 
tion for her. There is no institution for whose history I have 
a deeper admiration; but I cannot honestly be ordained her 
minister, as my brothers are, while she refuses to liberate 
her mind from an untenable redemptive theolatry' 

It had never occurred to the straightforward and sim- 
ple-minded Vicar that one of his own flesh and blood could 
come to this! He was stultified, shocked, paralysed. And if 
Angel were not going to enter the Church, what was the use 
of sending him to Cambridge? The University as a step to 
anything but ordination seemed, to this man of fixed ideas, 
a preface without a volume. He was a man not merely reli- 
gious, but devout; a firm believer — not as the phrase is now 
elusively construed by theological thimble-riggers in the 
Church and out of it, but in the old and ardent sense of the 
Evangelical school: one who could 

Indeed opine 

That the Eternal and Divine 

Did, eighteen centuries ago 



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169 



In very truth... 

Angel's father tried argument, persuasion, entreaty. 

'No, father; I cannot underwrite Article Four (leave alone 
the rest), taking it 'in the literal and grammatical sense' as 
required by the Declaration; and, therefore, I can't be a par- 
son in the present state of affairs,' said Angel. 'My whole 
instinct in matters of religion is towards reconstruction; to 
quote your favorite Epistle to the Hebrews, 'the removing of 
those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that 
those things which cannot be shaken may remain." 

His father grieved so deeply that it made Angel quite ill 
to see him. 

'What is the good of your mother and me economizing 
and stinting ourselves to give you a University education, 
if it is not to be used for the honour and glory of God?' his 
father repeated. 

'Why, that it may be used for the honour and glory of 
man, father.' 

Perhaps if Angel had persevered he might have gone to 
Cambridge like his brothers. But the Vicar's view of that seat 
of learning as a stepping-stone to Orders alone was quite a 
family tradition; and so rooted was the idea in his mind that 
perseverance began to appear to the sensitive son akin to an 
intent to misappropriate a trust, and wrong the pious heads 
of the household, who had been and were, as his father had 
hinted, compelled to exercise much thrift to carry out this 
uniform plan of education for the three young men. 

'I will do without Cambridge,' said Angel at last. 'I feel 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



that I have no right to go there in the circumstances.' 

The effects of this decisive debate were not long in show- 
ing themselves. He spent years and years in desultory 
studies, undertakings, and meditations; he began to evince 
considerable indifference to social forms and observances. 
The material distinctions of rank and wealth he increasing- 
ly despised. Even the 'good old family' (to use a favourite 
phrase of a late local worthy) had no aroma for him unless 
there were good new resolutions in its representatives. As a 
balance to these austerities, when he went to live in London 
to see what the world was like, and with a view to practising 
a profession or business there, he was carried off his head, 
and nearly entrapped by a woman much older than himself, 
though luckily he escaped not greatly the worse for the ex- 
perience. 

Early association with country solitudes had bred in him 
an unconquerable, and almost unreasonable, aversion to 
modern town life, and shut him out from such success as he 
might have aspired to by following a mundane calling in the 
impracticability of the spiritual one. But something had to 
be done; he had wasted many valuable years; and having an 
acquaintance who was starting on a thriving life as a Colo- 
nial farmer, it occurred to Angel that this might be a lead in 
the right direction. Farming, either in the Colonies, Amer- 
ica, or at home — farming, at any rate, after becoming well 
qualified for the business by a careful apprenticeship — that 
was a vocation which would probably afford an indepen- 
dence without the sacrifice of what he valued even more 
than a competency — intellectual liberty. 



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So we find Angel Clare at six-and-twenty here at Tal- 
bothays as a student of kine, and, as there were no houses 
near at hand in which he could get a comfortable lodging, a 
boarder at the dairyman's. 

His room was an immense attic which ran the whole 
length of the dairy-house. It could only be reached by a lad- 
der from the cheese-loft, and had been closed up for a long 
time till he arrived and selected it as his retreat. Here Clare 
had plenty of space, and could often be heard by the dairy- 
folk pacing up and down when the household had gone to 
rest. A portion was divided off at one end by a curtain, be- 
hind which was his bed, the outer part being furnished as a 
homely sitting-room. 

At first he lived up above entirely, reading a good deal, 
and strumming upon an old harp which he had bought at 
a sale, saying when in a bitter humour that he might have 
to get his living by it in the streets some day. But he soon 
preferred to read human nature by taking his meals down- 
stairs in the general dining-kitchen, with the dairyman and 
his wife, and the maids and men, who all together formed 
a lively assembly; for though but few milking hands slept 
in the house, several joined the family at meals. The longer 
Clare resided here the less objection had he to his compa- 
ny, and the more did he like to share quarters with them in 
common. 

Much to his surprise he took, indeed, a real delight in 
their companionship. The conventional farm-folk of his 
imagination — personified in the newspaper-press by the 
pitiable dummy known as Hodge — were obliterated after a 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



few days' residence. At close quarters no Hodge was to be 
seen. At first, it is true, when Clare's intelligence was fresh 
from a contrasting society, these friends with whom he now 
hobnobbed seemed a little strange. Sitting down as a level 
member of the dairyman's household seemed at the outset 
an undignified proceeding. The ideas, the modes, the sur- 
roundings, appeared retrogressive and unmeaning. But 
with living on there, day after day, the acute sojourner be- 
came conscious of a new aspect in the spectacle. Without 
any objective change whatever, variety had taken the place 
of monotonousness. His host and his host's household, 
his men and his maids, as they became intimately known 
to Clare, began to differentiate themselves as in a chemi- 
cal process. The thought of Pascal's was brought home to 
him: A mesure qu'on a plus d'esprit, on trouve qu'il y a plus 
d'hommes originaux. Les gens du commun ne trouvent pas 
de difference entre les hommes.' The typical and unvary- 
ing Hodge ceased to exist. He had been disintegrated into a 
number of varied fellow- creatures — beings of many minds, 
beings infinite in difference; some happy, many serene, a 
few depressed, one here and there bright even to genius, 
some stupid, others wanton, others austere; some mutely 
Miltonic, some potentially Cromwellian — into men who 
had private views of each other, as he had of his friends; 
who could applaud or condemn each other, amuse or sad- 
den themselves by the contemplation of each other's foibles 
or vices; men every one of whom walked in his own indi- 
vidual way the road to dusty death. 

Unexpectedly he began to like the outdoor life for its 



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own sake, and for what it brought, apart from its bearing on 
his own proposed career. Considering his position he be- 
came wonderfully free from the chronic melancholy which 
is taking hold of the civilized races with the decline of be- 
lief in a beneficent Power. For the first time of late years he 
could read as his musings inclined him, without any eye to 
cramming for a profession, since the few farming hand- 
books which he deemed it desirable to master occupied him 
but little time. 

He grew away from old associations, and saw something 
new in life and humanity. Secondarily, he made close ac- 
quaintance with phenomena which he had before known 
but darkly — the seasons in their moods, morning and eve- 
ning, night and noon, winds in their different tempers, 
trees, waters and mists, shades and silences, and the voices 
of inanimate things. 

The early mornings were still sufficiently cool to render a 
fire acceptable in the large room wherein they breakfasted; 
and, by Mrs Crick's orders, who held that he was too gen- 
teel to mess at their table, it was Angel Clare's custom to sit 
in the yawning chimney-corner during the meal, his cup- 
and-saucer and plate being placed on a hinged flap at his 
elbow. The light from the long, wide, mullioned window op- 
posite shone in upon his nook, and, assisted by a secondary 
light of cold blue quality which shone down the chimney, 
enabled him to read there easily whenever disposed to do 
so. Between Clare and the window was the table at which 
his companions sat, their munching profiles rising sharp 
against the panes; while to the side was the milk-house 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



door, through which were visible the rectangular leads in 
rows, full to the brim with the morning's milk. At the fur- 
ther end the great churn could be seen revolving, and its 
slip-slopping heard — the moving power being discernible 
through the window in the form of a spiritless horse walk- 
ing in a circle and driven by a boy. 

For several days after Tess's arrival Clare, sitting ab- 
stractedly reading from some book, periodical, or piece of 
music just come by post, hardly noticed that she was pres- 
ent at table. She talked so little, and the other maids talked 
so much, that the babble did not strike him as possessing 
a new note, and he was ever in the habit of neglecting the 
particulars of an outward scene for the general impression. 
One day, however, when he had been conning one of his 
music-scores, and by force of imagination was hearing the 
tune in his head, he lapsed into listlessness, and the mu- 
sic-sheet rolled to the hearth. He looked at the fire of logs, 
with its one flame pirouetting on the top in a dying dance 
after the breakfast-cooking and boiling, and it seemed to 
jig to his inward tune; also at the two chimney crooks dan- 
gling down from the cotterel, or cross-bar, plumed with 
soot, which quivered to the same melody; also at the half- 
empty kettle whining an accompaniment. The conversation 
at the table mixed in with his phantasmal orchestra till he 
thought: 'What a fluty voice one of those milkmaids has! I 
suppose it is the new one.' 

Clare looked round upon her, seated with the others. 

She was not looking towards him. Indeed, owing to his 
long silence, his presence in the room was almost forgot- 



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ten. 

'I don't know about ghosts,' she was saying; 'but I do 
know that our souls can be made to go outside our bodies 
when we are alive.' 

The dairyman turned to her with his mouth full, his eyes 
charged with serious inquiry, and his great knife and fork 
(breakfasts were breakfasts here) planted erect on the table, 
like the beginning of a gallows. 

'What — really now? And is it so, maidy?' he said. 

'A very easy way to feel 'em go,' continued Tess, 'is to lie 
on the grass at night and look straight up at some big bright 
star; and, by fixing your mind upon it, you will soon find 
that you are hundreds and hundreds o' miles away from 
your body, which you don't seem to want at all.' 

The dairyman removed his hard gaze from Tess, and 
fixed it on his wife. 

'Now that's a rum thing, Christianer — hey? To think o' 
the miles I've vamped o' starlight nights these last thirty 
year, courting, or trading, or for doctor, or for nurse, and 
yet never had the least notion o' that till now, or feeled my 
soul rise so much as an inch above my shirt-collar.' 

The general attention being drawn to her, including that 
of the dairyman's pupil, Tess flushed, and remarking eva- 
sively that it was only a fancy, resumed her breakfast. 

Clare continued to observe her. She soon finished her 
eating, and having a consciousness that Clare was regard- 
ing her, began to trace imaginary patterns on the tablecloth 
with her forefinger with the constraint of a domestic animal 
that perceives itself to be watched. 



176 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milk- 
maid is!' he said to himself. 

And then he seemed to discern in her something that 
was familiar, something which carried him back into a joy- 
ous and unforeseeing past, before the necessity of taking 
thought had made the heavens gray. He concluded that he 
had beheld her before; where he could not tell. A casual en- 
counter during some country ramble it certainly had been, 
and he was not greatly curious about it. But the circum- 
stance was sufficient to lead him to select Tess in preference 
to the other pretty milkmaids when he wished to contem- 
plate contiguous womankind. 



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XIX 



In general the cows were milked as they presented them- 
selves, without fancy or choice. But certain cows will show 
a fondness for a particular pair of hands, sometimes carry- 
ing this predilection so far as to refuse to stand at all except 
to their favourite, the pail of a stranger being unceremoni- 
ously kicked over. 

It was Dairyman Crick's rule to insist on breaking down 
these partialities and aversions by constant interchange, 
since otherwise, in the event of a milkman or maid go- 
ing away from the dairy, he was placed in a difficulty The 
maids' private aims, however, were the reverse of the dairy- 
man's rule, the daily selection by each damsel of the eight 
or ten cows to which she had grown accustomed rendering 
the operation on their willing udders surprisingly easy and 
effortless. 

Tess, like her compeers, soon discovered which of the 
cows had a preference for her style of manipulation, and her 
fingers having become delicate from the long domiciliary 
imprisonments to which she had subjected herself at inter- 
vals during the last two or three years, she would have been 
glad to meet the milchers' views in this respect. Out of the 
whole ninety-five there were eight in particular — Dump- 
ling, Fancy, Lofty, Mist, Old Pretty, Young Pretty, Tidy, and 
Loud — who, though the teats of one or two were as hard as 



178 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



carrots, gave down to her with a readiness that made her 
work on them a mere touch of the fingers. Knowing, how- 
ever, the dairyman's wish, she endeavoured conscientiously 
to take the animals just as they came, expecting the very 
hard yielders which she could not yet manage. 

But she soon found a curious correspondence between 
the ostensibly chance position of the cows and her wishes 
in this matter, till she felt that their order could not be the 
result of accident. The dairyman's pupil had lent a hand in 
getting the cows together of late, and at the fifth or sixth 
time she turned her eyes, as she rested against the cow, full 
of sly inquiry upon him. 

'Mr Clare, you have ranged the cows!' she said, blushing; 
and in making the accusation, symptoms of a smile gently 
lifted her upper lip in spite of her, so as to show the tips of 
her teeth, the lower lip remaining severely still. 

'Well, it makes no difference,' said he. 'You will always be 
here to milk them.' 

'Do you think so? I HOPE I shall! But I don't KNOW.' 

She was angry with herself afterwards, thinking that 
he, unaware of her grave reasons for liking this seclusion, 
might have mistaken her meaning. She had spoken so ear- 
nestly to him, as if his presence were somehow a factor in 
her wish. Her misgiving was such that at dusk, when the 
milking was over, she walked in the garden alone, to con- 
tinue her regrets that she had disclosed to him her discovery 
of his considerateness. 

It was a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere 
being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive that 



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inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three sens- 
es, if not five. There was no distinction between the near 
and the far, and an auditor felt close to everything within 
the horizon. The soundlessness impressed her as a positive 
entity rather than as the mere negation of noise. It was bro- 
ken by the strumming of strings. 

Tess had heard those notes in the attic above her head. 
Dim, flattened, constrained by their confinement, they had 
never appealed to her as now, when they wandered in the 
still air with a stark quality like that of nudity. To speak 
absolutely, both instrument and execution were poor; but 
the relative is all, and as she listened Tess, like a fascinated 
bird, could not leave the spot. Far from leaving she drew up 
towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge that he 
might not guess her presence. 

The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself 
had been left uncultivated for some years, and was now 
damp and rank with juicy grass which sent up mists of 
pollen at a touch; and with tall blooming weeds emitting 
offensive smells — weeds whose red and yellow and purple 
hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that of cultivated 
flowers. She went stealthily as a cat through this profusion 
of growth, gathering cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking 
snails that were underfoot, staining her hands with thistle- 
milk and slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms 
sticky blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree 
trunks, made madder stains on her skin; thus she drew 
quite near to Clare, still unobserved of him. 

Tess was conscious of neither time nor space. The exal- 



1S0 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



tation which she had described as being producible at will 
by gazing at a star came now without any determination of 
hers; she undulated upon the thin notes of the second-hand 
harp, and their harmonies passed like breezes through her, 
bringing tears into her eyes. The floating pollen seemed to 
be his notes made visible, and the dampness of the garden 
the weeping of the garden's sensibility. Though near night- 
fall, the rank-smelling weed-flowers glowed as if they would 
not close for intentness, and the waves of colour mixed with 
the waves of sound. 

The light which still shone was derived mainly from a 
large hole in the western bank of cloud; it was like a piece 
of day left behind by accident, dusk having closed in else- 
where. He concluded his plaintive melody, a very simple 
performance, demanding no great skill; and she waited, 
thinking another might be begun. But, tired of playing, he 
had desultorily come round the fence, and was rambling up 
behind her. Tess, her cheeks on fire, moved away furtively, 
as if hardly moving at all. 

Angel, however, saw her light summer gown, and he 
spoke; his low tones reaching her, though he was some dis- 
tance off. 

'What makes you draw off in that way, Tess?' said he. 'Are 
you afraid?' 

'Oh no, sir — not of outdoor things; especially just now 
when the apple-blooth is falling, and everything is so 
green.' 

'But you have your indoor fears — eh?' 

'Well — yes, sir.' 



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'What of?' 

'I couldn't quite say.' 

'The milk turning sour?' 

'No.' 

'Life in general?' 

'Yes, sir.' 

'Ah — so have I, very often. This hobble of being alive is 
rather serious, don't you think so?' 

'It is — now you put it that way.' 

'All the same, I shouldn't have expected a young girl like 
you to see it so just yet. How is it you do?' 

She maintained a hesitating silence. 

'Come, Tess, tell me in confidence.' 

She thought that he meant what were the aspects of 
things to her, and replied shyly — 

'The trees have inquisitive eyes, haven't they? — that is, 
seem as if they had. And the river says, — 'Why do ye trou- 
ble me with your looks?' And you seem to see numbers of 
to-morrows just all in a line, the first of them the biggest 
and clearest, the others getting smaller and smaller as they 
stand farther away; but they all seem very fierce and cruel 
and as if they said, 'I'm coming! Beware of me! Beware of 
me!' ... But YOU, sir, can raise up dreams with your music, 
and drive all such horrid fancies away!' 

He was surprised to find this young woman — who 
though but a milkmaid had just that touch of rarity about 
her which might make her the envied of her housemates — 
shaping such sad imaginings. She was expressing in her 
own native phrases — assisted a little by her Sixth Standard 



182 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



training — feelings which might almost have been called 
those of the age — the ache of modernism. The perception 
arrested him less when he reflected that what are called ad- 
vanced ideas are really in great part but the latest fashion in 
definition — a more accurate expression, by words in logy 
and ism, of sensations which men and women have vaguely 
grasped for centuries. 

Still, it was strange that they should have come to her 
while yet so young; more than strange; it was impressive, 
interesting, pathetic. Not guessing the cause, there was 
nothing to remind him that experience is as to intensity, 
and not as to duration. Tess's passing corporeal blight had 
been her mental harvest. 

Tess, on her part, could not understand why a man of 
clerical family and good education, and above physical 
want, should look upon it as a mishap to be alive. For the 
unhappy pilgrim herself there was very good reason. But 
how could this admirable and poetic man ever have de- 
scended into the Valley of Humiliation, have felt with the 
man of Uz — as she herself had felt two or three years ago — 
'My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than my life. 
I loathe it; I would not live alway.' 

It was true that he was at present out of his class. But 
she knew that was only because, like Peter the Great in a 
shipwright's yard, he was studying what he wanted to 
know. He did not milk cows because he was obliged to milk 
cows, but because he was learning to be a rich and pros- 
perous dairyman, landowner, agriculturist, and breeder of 
cattle. He would become an American or Australian Abra- 



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183 



ham, commanding like a monarch his flocks and his herds, 
his spotted and his ring-straked, his men-servants and his 
maids. At times, nevertheless, it did seem unaccountable to 
her that a decidedly bookish, musical, thinking young man 
should have chosen deliberately to be a farmer, and not a 
clergyman, like his father and brothers. 

Thus, neither having the clue to the other's secret, they 
were respectively puzzled at what each revealed, and awaited 
new knowledge of each other's character and mood without 
attempting to pry into each other's history. 

Every day, every hour, brought to him one more lit- 
tle stroke of her nature, and to her one more of his. Tess 
was trying to lead a repressed life, but she little divined the 
strength of her own vitality. 

At first Tess seemed to regard Angel Clare as an intelli- 
gence rather than as a man. As such she compared him with 
herself; and at every discovery of the abundance of his illu- 
minations, of the distance between her own modest mental 
standpoint and the unmeasurable, Andean altitude of his, 
she became quite dejected, disheartened from all further ef- 
fort on her own part whatever. 

He observed her dejection one day, when he had casually 
mentioned something to her about pastoral life in ancient 
Greece. She was gathering the buds called 'lords and ladies' 
from the bank while he spoke. 

'Why do you look so woebegone all of a sudden?' he 
asked. 

'Oh, 'tis only — about my own self,' she said, with a frail 
laugh of sadness, fitfully beginning to peel 'a lady' mean- 



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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



while. 'Just a sense of what might have been with me! My 
life looks as if it had been wasted for want of chances! When 
I see what you know, what you have read, and seen, and 
thought, I feel what a nothing I am! I'm like the poor Queen 
of Sheba who lived in the Bible. There is no more spirit in 
me.' 

'Bless my soul, don't go troubling about that! Why,' he 
said with some enthusiasm, 'I should be only too glad, my 
dear Tess, to help you to anything in the way of history, or 
any line of reading you would like to take up — ' 

'It is a lady again,' interrupted she, holding out the bud 
she had peeled. 

'What?' 

'I meant that there are always more ladies than lords 
when you come to peel them.' 

'Never mind about the lords and ladies. Would you like 
to take up any course of study — history, for example?' 

'Sometimes I feel I don't want to know anything more 
about it than I know already.' 

'Why not?' 

'Because what's the use of learning that I am one of a long 
row only — finding out that there is set down in some old 
book somebody just like me, and to know that I shall only 
act her part; making me sad, that's all. The best is not to re- 
member that your nature and your past doings have been 
just like thousands' and thousands', and that your coming 
life and doings '11 be like thousands's and thousands'.' 

'What, really, then, you don't want to learn anything?' 

'I shouldn't mind learning why — why the sun do shine 



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185 



on the just and the unjust alike,' she answered, with a slight 
quaver in her voice. 'But that's what books will not tell me.' 

'Tess, fie for such bitterness!' Of course he spoke with a 
conventional sense of duty only, for that sort of wondering 
had not been unknown to himself in bygone days. And as 
he looked at the unpracticed mouth and lips, he thought 
that such a daughter of the soil could only have caught up 
the sentiment by rote. She went on peeling the lords and la- 
dies till Clare, regarding for a moment the wave-like curl 
of her lashes as they dropped with her bent gaze on her 
soft cheek, lingeringly went away. When he was gone she 
stood awhile, thoughtfully peeling the last bud; and then, 
awakening from her reverie, flung it and all the crowd of 
floral nobility impatiently on the ground, in an ebullition of 
displeasure with herself for her niaiserie, and with a quick- 
ening warmth in her heart of hearts. 

How stupid he must think her! In an access of hunger 
for his good opinion she bethought herself of what she had 
latterly endeavoured to forget, so unpleasant had been its 
issues — the identity of her family with that of the knight- 
ly d'Urbervilles. Barren attribute as it was, disastrous as its 
discovery had been in many ways to her, perhaps Mr Clare, 
as a gentleman and a student of history, would respect her 
sufficiently to forget her childish conduct with the lords and 
ladies if he knew that those Purbeck-marble and alabas- 
ter people in Kingsbere Church really represented her own 
lineal forefathers; that she was no spurious d'Urberville, 
compounded of money and ambition like those at Trant- 
ridge, but true d'Urberville to the bone. 



186 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



But, before venturing to make the revelation, dubious 
Tess indirectly sounded the dairyman as to its possible ef- 
fect upon Mr Clare, by asking the former if Mr Clare had 
any great respect for old county families when they had lost 
all their money and land. 

'Mr Clare,' said the dairyman emphatically, 'is one of 
the most rebellest rozums you ever knowed — not a bit like 
the rest of his family; and if there's one thing that he do 
hate more than another 'tis the notion of what's called a' 
old family. He says that it stands to reason that old families 
have done their spurt of work in past days, and can't have 
anything left in 'em now. There's the Billets and the Dren- 
khards and the Greys and the St Quintins and the Hardys 
and the Goulds, who used to own the lands for miles down 
this valley; you could buy 'em all up now for an old song 
a'most. Why, our little Retty Priddle here, you know, is one 
of the Paridelles — the old family that used to own lots o' the 
lands out by King's Hintock, now owned by the Earl o' Wes- 
sex, afore even he or his was heard of. Well, Mr Clare found 
this out, and spoke quite scornful to the poor girl for days. 
'Ah!' he says to her, 'you'll never make a good dairymaid! 
All your skill was used up ages ago in Palestine, and you 
must lie fallow for a thousand years to git strength for more 
deeds!' A boy came here t'other day asking for a job, and 
said his name was Matt, and when we asked him his sur- 
name he said he'd never heard that 'a had any surname, and 
when we asked why, he said he supposed his folks hadn't 
been 'stablished long enough. Ah! you're the very boy I 
want!' says Mr Clare, jumping up and shaking hands wi'en; 



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187 



'I've great hopes of you;' and gave him half-a-crown. O no! 
he can't stomach old families!' 

After hearing this caricature of Clare's opinion poor Tess 
was glad that she had not said a word in a weak moment 
about her family — even though it was so unusually old al- 
most to have gone round the circle and become a new one. 
Besides, another diary-girl was as good as she, it seemed, 
in that respect. She held her tongue about the d'Urberville 
vault and the Knight of the Conqueror whose name she 
bore. The insight afforded into Clare's character suggested 
to her that it was largely owing to her supposed untradition- 
al newness that she had won interest in his eyes. 



irt.s 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XX 



The season developed and matured. Another year's in- 
stalment of flowers, leaves, nightingales, thrushes, finches, 
and such ephemeral creatures, took up their positions where 
only a year ago others had stood in their place when these 
were nothing more than germs and inorganic particles. 
Rays from the sunrise drew forth the buds and stretched 
them into long stalks, lifted up sap in noiseless streams, 
opened petals, and sucked out scents in invisible jets and 
breathings. 

Dairyman Crick's household of maids and men lived on 
comfortably, placidly, even merrily. Their position was per- 
haps the happiest of all positions in the social scale, being 
above the line at which neediness ends, and below the line 
at which the convenances begin to cramp natural feelings, 
and the stress of threadbare modishness makes too little of 
enough. 

Thus passed the leafy time when arborescence seems to 
be the one thing aimed at out of doors. Tess and Clare un- 
consciously studied each other, ever balanced on the edge of 
a passion, yet apparently keeping out of it. All the while they 
were converging, under an irresistible law, as surely as two 
streams in one vale. 

Tess had never in her recent life been so happy as she 
was now, possibly never would be so happy again. She was, 



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1S9 



for one thing, physically and mentally suited among these 
new surroundings. The sapling which had rooted down to a 
poisonous stratum on the spot of its sowing had been trans- 
planted to a deeper soil. Moreover she, and Clare also, stood 
as yet on the debatable land between predilection and love; 
where no profundities have been reached; no reflections 
have set in, awkwardly inquiring, 'Whither does this new 
current tend to carry me? What does it mean to my future? 
How does it stand towards my past?' 

Tess was the merest stray phenomenon to Angel Clare 
as yet — a rosy, warming apparition which had only just ac- 
quired the attribute of persistence in his consciousness. So 
he allowed his mind to be occupied with her, deeming his 
preoccupation to be no more than a philosopher's regard 
of an exceedingly novel, fresh, and interesting specimen of 
womankind. 

They met continually; they could not help it. They met 
daily in that strange and solemn interval, the twilight of the 
morning, in the violet or pink dawn; for it was necessary 
to rise early, so very early, here. Milking was done betimes; 
and before the milking came the skimming, which began 
at a little past three. It usually fell to the lot of some one or 
other of them to wake the rest, the first being aroused by 
an alarm-clock; and, as Tess was the latest arrival, and they 
soon discovered that she could be depended upon not to 
sleep though the alarm as others did, this task was thrust 
most frequently upon her. No sooner had the hour of three 
struck and whizzed, than she left her room and ran to the 
dairyman's door; then up the ladder to Angel's, calling him 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



in a loud whisper; then woke her fellow-milkmaids. By the 
time that Tess was dressed Clare was downstairs and out in 
the humid air. The remaining maids and the dairyman usu- 
ally gave themselves another turn on the pillow, and did not 
appear till a quarter of an hour later. 

The gray half-tones of daybreak are not the gray half- 
tones of the day's close, though the degree of their shade 
maybe the same. In the twilight of the morning, light seems 
active, darkness passive; in the twilight of evening it is the 
darkness which is active and crescent, and the light which 
is the drowsy reverse. 

Being so often — possibly not always by chance — the first 
two persons to get up at the dairy-house, they seemed to 
themselves the first persons up of all the world. In these ear- 
ly days of her residence here Tess did not skim, but went 
out of doors at once after rising, where he was generally 
awaiting her. The spectral, half-compounded, aqueous light 
which pervaded the open mead impressed them with a feel- 
ing of isolation, as if they were Adam and Eve. At this dim 
inceptive stage of the day Tess seemed to Clare to exhibit a 
dignified largeness both of disposition and physique, an al- 
most regnant power, possibly because he knew that at that 
preternatural time hardly any woman so well endowed in 
person as she was likely to be walking in the open air within 
the boundaries of his horizon; very few in all England. Fair 
women are usually asleep at mid-summer dawns. She was 
close at hand, and the rest were nowhere. 

The mixed, singular, luminous gloom in which they 
walked along together to the spot where the cows lay often 



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made him think of the Resurrection hour. He little thought 
that the Magdalen might be at his side. Whilst all the land- 
scape was in neutral shade his companion's face, which was 
the focus of his eyes, rising above the mist stratum, seemed 
to have a sort of phosphorescence upon it. She looked ghost- 
ly, as if she were merely a soul at large. In reality her face, 
without appearing to do so, had caught the cold gleam of 
day from the north-east; his own face, though he did not 
think of it, wore the same aspect to her. 

It was then, as has been said, that she impressed him most 
deeply. She was no longer the milkmaid, but a visionary es- 
sence of woman — a whole sex condensed into one typical 
form. He called her Artemis, Demeter, and other fanciful 
names half teasingly, which she did not like because she did 
not understand them. 

'Call me Tess,' she would say askance; and he did. 

Then it would grow lighter, and her features would be- 
come simply feminine; they had changed from those of 
a divinity who could confer bliss to those of a being who 
craved it. 

At these non-human hours they could get quite close to 
the waterfowl. Herons came, with a great bold noise as of 
opening doors and shutters, out of the boughs of a planta- 
tion which they frequented at the side of the mead; or, if 
already on the spot, hardily maintained their standing in 
the water as the pair walked by, watching them by moving 
their heads round in a slow, horizontal, passionless wheel, 
like the turn of puppets by clockwork. 

They could then see the faint summer fogs in layers, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



woolly level, and apparently no thicker than counterpanes, 
spread about the meadows in detached remnants of small 
extent. On the gray moisture of the grass were marks where 
the cows had lain through the night — dark-green islands of 
dry herbage the size of their carcasses, in the general sea 
of dew. From each island proceeded a serpentine trail, by 
which the cow had rambled away to feed after getting up, at 
the end of which trail they found her; the snoring puff from 
her nostrils, when she recognized them, making an intens- 
er little fog of her own amid the prevailing one. Then they 
drove the animals back to the barton, or sat down to milk 
them on the spot, as the case might require. 

Or perhaps the summer fog was more general, and the 
meadows lay like a white sea, out of which the scattered 
trees rose like dangerous rocks. Birds would soar through 
it into the upper radiance, and hang on the wing sunning 
themselves, or alight on the wet rails subdividing the mead, 
which now shone like glass rods. Minute diamonds of mois- 
ture from the mist hung, too, upon Tess's eyelashes, and 
drops upon her hair, like seed pearls. When the day grew 
quite strong and commonplace these dried off her; more- 
over, Tess then lost her strange and ethereal beauty; her 
teeth, lips, and eyes scintillated in the sunbeams and she 
was again the dazzlingly fair dairymaid only, who had to 
hold her own against the other women of the world. 

About this time they would hear Dairyman Crick's 
voice, lecturing the non-resident milkers for arriving late, 
and speaking sharply to old Deborah Fyander for not wash- 
ing her hands. 



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'For Heaven's sake, pop thy hands under the pump, Deb! 
Upon my soul, if the London folk only knowed of thee 
and thy slovenly ways, they'd swaller their milk and but- 
ter more mincing than they do a'ready; and that's saying a 
good deal.' 

The milking progressed, till towards the end Tess and 
Clare, in common with the rest, could hear the heavy break- 
fast table dragged out from the wall in the kitchen by Mrs 
Crick, this being the invariable preliminary to each meal; 
the same horrible scrape accompanying its return journey 
when the table had been cleared. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXI 



There was a great stir in the milk-house just after break- 
fast. The churn revolved as usual, but the butter would not 
come. Whenever this happened the dairy was paralyzed. 
Squish, squash echoed the milk in the great cylinder, but 
never arose the sound they waited for. 

Dairyman Crick and his wife, the milkmaids Tess, Mar- 
ian, Retty Priddle, Izz Huett, and the married ones from the 
cottages; also Mr Clare, Jonathan Kail, old Deborah, and 
the rest, stood gazing hopelessly at the churn; and the boy 
who kept the horse going outside put on moon-like eyes to 
show his sense of the situation. Even the melancholy horse 
himself seemed to look in at the window in inquiring de- 
spair at each walk round. 

"Tis years since I went to Conjuror Trendle's son in 
Egdon — years!' said the dairyman bitterly. 'And he was 
nothing to what his father had been. I have said fifty times, 
if I have said once, that I DON'T believe in en; though 'a 
do cast folks' waters very true. But I shall have to go to 'n if 
he's alive. O yes, I shall have to go to 'n, if this sort of thing 
continnys!' 

Even Mr Clare began to feel tragical at the dairyman's 
desperation. 

'Conjuror Fall, t'other side of Casterbridge, that they 
used to call 'Wide-O', was a very good man when I was a 



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boy,' said Jonathan Kail. 'But he's rotten as touchwood by 
now.' 

'My grandfather used to go to Conjuror Mynterne, out at 
Owlscombe, and a clever man a' were, so I've heard grandf 'er 
say' continued Mr Crick. 'But there's no such genuine folk 
about nowadays!' 

Mrs Crick's mind kept nearer to the matter in hand. 

'Perhaps somebody in the house is in love,' she said ten- 
tatively. 'I've heard tell in my younger days that that will 
cause it. Why, Crick — that maid we had years ago, do ye 
mind, and how the butter didn't come then — ' 

'Ah yes, yes! — but that isn't the rights o't. It had nothing 
to do with the love-making. I can mind all about it — 'twas 
the damage to the churn.' 

He turned to Clare. 

'Jack Dollop, a 'hore's-bird of a fellow we had here as 
milker at one time, sir, courted a young woman over at 
Mellstock, and deceived her as he had deceived many afore. 
But he had another sort o' woman to reckon wi' this time, 
and it was not the girl herself. One Holy Thursday of all days 
in the almanack, we was here as we mid be now, only there 
was no churning in hand, when we zid the girl's mother 
coming up to the door, wi' a great brass-mounted umbrella 
in her hand that would ha' felled an ox, and saying 'Do Jack 
Dollop work here? — because I want him! I have a big bone 
to pick with he, I can assure 'n!' And some way behind her 
mother walked Jack's young woman, crying bitterly into 
her handkercher. 'O Lard, here's a time!' said Jack, look- 
ing out o' winder at 'em. 'She'll murder me! Where shall I 



196 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



get — where shall I — ? Don't tell her where I be!' And with 
that he scrambled into the churn through the trap-door, 
and shut himself inside, just as the young woman's mother 
busted into the milk-house. 'The villain — where is he?' says 
she. 'I'll claw his face for'n, let me only catch him!' Well, 
she hunted about everywhere, ballyragging Jack by side and 
by seam, Jack lying a'most stifled inside the churn, and the 
poor maid — or young woman rather — standing at the door 
crying her eyes out. I shall never forget it, never! 'Twould 
have melted a marble stone! But she couldn't find him no- 
where at all.' 

The dairyman paused, and one or two words of com- 
ment came from the listeners. 

Dairyman Crick's stories often seemed to be ended when 
they were not really so, and strangers were betrayed into 
premature interjections of finality; though old friends knew 
better. The narrator went on — 

'Well, how the old woman should have had the wit to 
guess it I could never tell, but she found out that he was 
inside that there churn. Without saying a word she took 
hold of the winch (it was turned by handpower then), and 
round she swung him, and Jack began to flop about inside. 
'O Lard! stop the churn! let me out!' says he, popping out 
his head. 'I shall be churned into a pummy!' (He was a cow- 
ardly chap in his heart, as such men mostly be). 'Not till 
ye make amends for ravaging her virgin innocence!' says 
the old woman. 'Stop the churn you old witch!' screams he. 
'You call me old witch, do ye, you deceiver!' says she, 'when 
ye ought to ha' been calling me mother-law these last five 



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months!' And on went the churn, and Jack's bones rattled 
round again. Well, none of us ventured to interfere; and at 
last 'a promised to make it right wi' her. 'Yes — I'll be as good 
as my word!' he said. And so it ended that day.' 

While the listeners were smiling their comments there 
was a quick movement behind their backs, and they looked 
round. Tess, pale-faced, had gone to the door. 

'How warm 'tis to-day!' she said, almost inaudibly 

It was warm, and none of them connected her withdraw- 
al with the reminiscences of the dairyman. He went forward 
and opened the door for her, saying with tender raillery — 

'Why, maidy' (he frequently, with unconscious irony, 
gave her this pet name), 'the prettiest milker I've got in my 
dairy; you mustn't get so fagged as this at the first breath of 
summer weather, or we shall be finely put to for want of 'ee 
by dog-days, shan't we, Mr Clare?' 

'I was faint — and — I think I am better out o' doors,' she 
said mechanically; and disappeared outside. 

Fortunately for her the milk in the revolving churn at that 
moment changed its squashing for a decided flick-flack. 

"Tis coming!' cried Mrs Crick, and the attention of all 
was called off from Tess. 

That fair sufferer soon recovered herself externally; but 
she remained much depressed all the afternoon. When the 
evening milking was done she did not care to be with the 
rest of them, and went out of doors, wandering along she 
knew not whither. She was wretched — O so wretched — at 
the perception that to her companions the dairyman's sto- 
ry had been rather a humorous narration than otherwise; 



198 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



none of them but herself seemed to see the sorrow of it; to 
a certainty, not one knew how cruelly it touched the tender 
place in her experience. The evening sun was now ugly to 
her, like a great inflamed wound in the sky. Only a solitary 
cracked-voice reed-sparrow greeted her from the bushes by 
the river, in a sad, machine-made tone, resembling that of a 
past friend whose friendship she had outworn. 

In these long June days the milkmaids, and, indeed, most 
of the household, went to bed at sunset or sooner, the morn- 
ing work before milking being so early and heavy at a time 
of full pails. Tess usually accompanied her fellows upstairs. 
To-night, however, she was the first to go to their common 
chamber; and she had dozed when the other girls came in. 
She saw them undressing in the orange light of the vanished 
sun, which flushed their forms with its colour; she dozed 
again, but she was reawakened by their voices, and quietly 
turned her eyes towards them. 

Neither of her three chamber-companions had got into 
bed. They were standing in a group, in their nightgowns, 
barefooted, at the window, the last red rays of the west still 
warming their faces and necks and the walls around them. 
All were watching somebody in the garden with deep inter- 
est, their three faces close together: a jovial and round one, 
a pale one with dark hair, and a fair one whose tresses were 
auburn. 

'Don't push! You can see as well as I,' said Retty, the au- 
burn-haired and youngest girl, without removing her eyes 
from the window. 

"Tis no use for you to be in love with him any more than 



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me, Retty Priddle,' said jolly-faced Marian, the eldest, slily. 
'His thoughts be of other cheeks than thine!' 

Retty Priddle still looked, and the others looked again. 

'There he is again!' cried Izz Huett, the pale girl with 
dark damp hair and keenly cut lips. 

'You needn't say anything, Izz,' answered Retty. 'For I zid 
you kissing his shade.' 

'WHAT did you see her doing?' asked Marian. 

'Why — he was standing over the whey-tub to let off the 
whey, and the shade of his face came upon the wall behind, 
close to Izz, who was standing there filling a vat. She put her 
mouth against the wall and kissed the shade of his mouth; I 
zid her, though he didn't.' 

'O Izz Huett!' said Marian. 

A rosy spot came into the middle of Izz Huett's cheek. 

Well, there was no harm in it,' she declared, with at- 
tempted coolness. And if I be in love wi'en, so is Retty, too; 
and so be you, Marian, come to that.' 

Marian's full face could not blush past its chronic pink- 
ness. 

T!' she said. 'What a tale! Ah, there he is again! Dear 
eyes — dear face — dear Mr Clare!' 

"There — you've owned it!' 

'So have you — so have we all,' said Marian, with the dry 
frankness of complete indifference to opinion. 'It is silly to 
pretend otherwise amongst ourselves, though we need not 
own it to other folks. I would just marry 'n to-morrow!' 

'So would I — and more,' murmured Izz Huett. 

And I too,' whispered the more timid Retty. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



The listener grew warm. 

'We can't all marry him,' said Izz. 

'We shan't, either of us; which is worse still,' said the el- 
dest. "There he is again!' 

They all three blew him a silent kiss. 

'Why?' asked Retty quickly. 

'Because he likes Tess Durbeyfield best,' said Marian, 
lowering her voice. T have watched him every day, and have 
found it out.' 

There was a reflective silence. 

'But she don't care anything for 'n?' at length breathed 
Retty. 

'Well — I sometimes think that too.' 

'But how silly all this is!' said Izz Huett impatiently. 
'Of course he won't marry any one of us, or Tess either — a 
gentleman's son, who's going to be a great landowner and 
farmer abroad! More likely to ask us to come wi'en as farm- 
hands at so much a year!' 

One sighed, and another sighed, and Marian's plump 
figure sighed biggest of all. Somebody in bed hard by sighed 
too. Tears came into the eyes of Retty Priddle, the pretty 
red-haired youngest — the last bud of the Paridelles, so im- 
portant in the county annals. They watched silently a little 
longer, their three faces still close together as before, and the 
triple hues of their hair mingling. But the unconscious Mr 
Clare had gone indoors, and they saw him no more; and, the 
shades beginning to deepen, they crept into their beds. In 
a few minutes they heard him ascend the ladder to his own 
room. Marian was soon snoring, but Izz did not drop into 



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forgetfulness for a long time. Retty Priddle cried herself to 
sleep. 

The deeper-passioned Tess was very far from sleep- 
ing even then. This conversation was another of the bitter 
pills she had been obliged to swallow that day. Scarce the 
least feeling of jealousy arose in her breast. For that matter 
she knew herself to have the preference. Being more finely 
formed, better educated, and, though the youngest except 
Retty, more woman than either, she perceived that only the 
slightest ordinary care was necessary for holding her own 
in Angel Clare's heart against these her candid friends. But 
the grave question was, ought she to do this? There was, to 
be sure, hardly a ghost of a chance for either of them, in a 
serious sense; but there was, or had been, a chance of one 
or the other inspiring him with a passing fancy for her, and 
enjoying the pleasure of his attentions while he stayed here. 
Such unequal attachments had led to marriage; and she had 
heard from Mrs Crick that Mr Clare had one day asked, in 
a laughing way, what would be the use of his marrying a 
fine lady, and all the while ten thousand acres of Colonial 
pasture to feed, and cattle to rear, and corn to reap. A farm- 
woman would be the only sensible kind of wife for him. But 
whether Mr Clare had spoken seriously or not, why should 
she, who could never conscientiously allow any man to 
marry her now, and who had religiously determined that 
she never would be tempted to do so, draw off Mr Clare's 
attention from other women, for the brief happiness of sun- 
ning herself in his eyes while he remained at Talbothays? 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXII 



They came downstairs yawning next morning; but skim- 
ming and milking were proceeded with as usual, and they 
went indoors to breakfast. Dairyman Crick was discovered 
stamping about the house. He had received a letter, in which 
a customer had complained that the butter had a twang. 

And begad, so 't have!' said the dairyman, who held in 
his left hand a wooden slice on which a lump of butter was 
stuck. 'Yes — taste for yourself!' 

Several of them gathered round him; and Mr Clare tast- 
ed, Tess tasted, also the other indoor milkmaids, one or two 
of the milking-men, and last of all Mrs Crick, who came 
out from the waiting breakfast-table. There certainly was a 
twang. 

The dairyman, who had thrown himself into abstrac- 
tion to better realize the taste, and so divine the particular 
species of noxious weed to which it appertained, suddenly 
exclaimed — 

"Tis garlic! and I thought there wasn't a blade left in that 
mead!' 

Then all the old hands remembered that a certain dry 
mead, into which a few of the cows had been admitted of 
late, had, in years gone by, spoilt the butter in the same way. 
The dairyman had not recognized the taste at that time, and 
thought the butter bewitched. 



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'We must overhaul that mead,' he resumed; 'this mustn't 
continny!' 

All having armed themselves with old pointed knives, 
they went out together. As the inimical plant could only be 
present in very microscopic dimensions to have escaped 
ordinary observation, to find it seemed rather a hopeless 
attempt in the stretch of rich grass before them. Howev- 
er, they formed themselves into line, all assisting, owing 
to the importance of the search; the dairyman at the up- 
per end with Mr Clare, who had volunteered to help; then 
Tess, Marian, Izz Huett, and Retty; then Bill Lewell, Jona- 
than, and the married dairywomen — Beck Knibbs, with her 
wooly black hair and rolling eyes; and flaxen Frances, con- 
sumptive from the winter damps of the water-meads — who 
lived in their respective cottages. 

With eyes fixed upon the ground they crept slowly across 
a strip of the field, returning a little further down in such a 
manner that, when they should have finished, not a single 
inch of the pasture but would have fallen under the eye of 
some one of them. It was a most tedious business, not more 
than half a dozen shoots of garlic being discoverable in the 
whole field; yet such was the herb's pungency that probably 
one bite of it by one cow had been sufficient to season the 
whole dairy's produce for the day. 

Differing one from another in natures and moods so 
greatly as they did, they yet formed, bending, a curiously 
uniform row — automatic, noiseless; and an alien observer 
passing down the neighbouring lane might well have been 
excused for massing them as 'Hodge". As they crept along, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



stooping low to discern the plant, a soft yellow gleam was 
reflected from the buttercups into their shaded faces, giving 
them an elfish, moonlit aspect, though the sun was pouring 
upon their backs in all the strength of noon. 

Angel Clare, who communistically stuck to his rule of 
taking part with the rest in everything, glanced up now and 
then. It was not, of course, by accident that he walked next 
to Tess. 

'Well, how are you?' he murmured. 

"Very well, thank you, sir,' she replied demurely. 

As they had been discussing a score of personal matters 
only half-an-hour before, the introductory style seemed a 
little superfluous. But they got no further in speech just then. 
They crept and crept, the hem of her petticoat just touching 
his gaiter, and his elbow sometimes brushing hers. At last 
the dairyman, who came next, could stand it no longer. 

'Upon my soul and body, this here stooping do fairly 
make my back open and shut!' he exclaimed, straightening 
himself slowly with an excruciated look till quite upright. 
And you, maidy Tess, you wasn't well a day or two ago — 
this will make your head ache finely! Don't do any more, if 
you feel fainty; leave the rest to finish it.' 

Dairyman Crick withdrew, and Tess dropped behind. 
Mr Clare also stepped out of line, and began privateering 
about for the weed. When she found him near her, her very 
tension at what she had heard the night before made her the 
first to speak. 

'Don't they look pretty?' she said. 

'Who?' 



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'Izzy Huett and Retty.' 

Tess had moodily decided that either of these maidens 
would make a good farmer's wife, and that she ought to rec- 
ommend them, and obscure her own wretched charms. 

'Pretty? Well, yes — they are pretty girls — fresh looking. I 
have often thought so.' 

'Though, poor dears, prettiness won't last long!' 

'O no, unfortunately.' 

"They are excellent dairywomen.' 

'Yes: though not better than you.' 

"They skim better than I.' 

'Do they?' 

Clare remained observing them — not without their ob- 
serving him. 

'She is colouring up,' continued Tess heroically. 

'Who?' 

'Retty Priddle.' 

'Oh! Why it that?' 

'Because you are looking at her.' 

Self-sacrificing as her mood might be, Tess could not well 
go further and cry, 'Marry one of them, if you really do want 
a dairy woman and not a lady; and don't think of marrying 
me!' She followed Dairyman Crick, and had the mournful 
satisfaction of seeing that Clare remained behind. 

From this day she forced herself to take pains to avoid 
him — never allowing herself, as formerly, to remain long in 
his company, even if their juxtaposition were purely acci- 
dental. She gave the other three every chance. 

Tess was woman enough to realize from their avowals 



206 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



to herself that Angel Clare had the honour of all the dairy- 
maids in his keeping, and her perception of his care to avoid 
compromising the happiness of either in the least degree 
bred a tender respect in Tess for what she deemed, rightly or 
wrongly, the self-controlling sense of duty shown by him, a 
quality which she had never expected to find in one of the 
opposite sex, and in the absence of which more than one 
of the simple hearts who were his house-mates might have 
gone weeping on her pilgrimage. 



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XXIII 



The hot weather of July had crept upon them unawares, 
and the atmosphere of the flat vale hung heavy as an opiate 
over the dairy-folk, the cows, and the trees. Hot steaming 
rains fell frequently, making the grass where the cows fed 
yet more rank, and hindering the late hay-making in the 
other meads. 

It was Sunday morning; the milking was done; the out- 
door milkers had gone home. Tess and the other three were 
dressing themselves rapidly, the whole bevy having agreed 
to go together to Mellstock Church, which lay some three or 
four miles distant from the dairy-house. She had now been 
two months at Talbothays, and this was her first excursion. 

All the preceding afternoon and night heavy thunder- 
storms had hissed down upon the meads, and washed some 
of the hay into the river; but this morning the sun shone out 
all the more brilliantly for the deluge, and the air was balmy 
and clear. 

The crooked lane leading from their own parish to Mell- 
stock ran along the lowest levels in a portion of its length, 
and when the girls reached the most depressed spot they 
found that the result of the rain had been to flood the lane 
over-shoe to a distance of some fifty yards. This would have 
been no serious hindrance on a week-day; they would have 
clicked through it in their high patterns and boots quite un- 



208 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



concerned; but on this day of vanity, this Sun's-day, when 
flesh went forth to coquet with flesh while hypocritically af- 
fecting business with spiritual things; on this occasion for 
wearing their white stockings and thin shoes, and their pink, 
white, and lilac gowns, on which every mud spot would be 
visible, the pool was an awkward impediment. They could 
hear the church-bell calling — as yet nearly a mile off. 

'Who would have expected such a rise in the river in 
summer-time!' said Marian, from the top of the roadside 
bank on which they had climbed, and were maintaining a 
precarious footing in the hope of creeping along its slope till 
they were past the pool. 

'We can't get there anyhow, without walking right 
through it, or else going round the Turnpike way; and that 
would make us so very late!' said Retty, pausing hopelessly. 

'And I do colour up so hot, walking into church late, and 
all the people staring round,' said Marian, 'that I hardly cool 
down again till we get into the That-it-may-please-Thees.' 

While they stood clinging to the bank they heard a 
splashing round the bend of the road, and presently ap- 
peared Angel Clare, advancing along the lane towards them 
through the water. 

Four hearts gave a big throb simultaneously. 

His aspect was probably as un-Sabbatarian a one as a 
dogmatic parson's son often presented; his attire being his 
dairy clothes, long wading boots, a cabbage-leaf inside his 
hat to keep his head cool, with a thistle-spud to finish him 
off. 'He's not going to church,' said Marian. 

'No — I wish he was!' murmured Tess. 



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Angel, in fact, rightly or wrongly (to adopt the safe phrase 
of evasive controversialists), preferred sermons in stones to 
sermons in churches and chapels on fine summer days. This 
morning, moreover, he had gone out to see if the damage to 
the hay by the flood was considerable or not. On his walk 
he observed the girls from a long distance, though they had 
been so occupied with their difficulties of passage as not to 
notice him. He knew that the water had risen at that spot, 
and that it would quite check their progress. So he had has- 
tened on, with a dim idea of how he could help them — one 
of them in particular. 

The rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed quartet looked so charm- 
ing in their light summer attire, clinging to the roadside 
bank like pigeons on a roof-slope, that he stopped a moment 
to regard them before coming close. Their gauzy skirts had 
brushed up from the grass innumerable flies and butterflies 
which, unable to escape, remained caged in the transparent 
tissue as in an aviary. Angel's eye at last fell upon Tess, the 
hindmost of the four; she, being full of suppressed laughter 
at their dilemma, could not help meeting his glance radi- 
antly. 

He came beneath them in the water, which did not rise 
over his long boots; and stood looking at the entrapped flies 
and butterflies. 

Are you trying to get to church?' he said to Marian, 
who was in front, including the next two in his remark, but 
avoiding Tess. 

'Yes, sir; and 'tis getting late; and my colour do come up 
so — ' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I'll carry you through the pool — every Jill of you.' 

The whole four flushed as if one heart beat through 
them. 

'I think you can't, sir,' said Marian. 

'It is the only way for you to get past. Stand still. Non- 
sense — you are not too heavy! I'd carry you all four together. 
Now, Marian, attend,' he continued, 'and put your arms 
round my shoulders, so. Now! Hold on. That's well done.' 

Marian had lowered herself upon his arm and shoulder 
as directed, and Angel strode off with her, his slim figure, 
as viewed from behind, looking like the mere stem to the 
great nosegay suggested by hers. They disappeared round 
the curve of the road, and only his sousing footsteps and 
the top ribbon of Marian's bonnet told where they were. In 
a few minutes he reappeared. Izz Huett was the next in or- 
der upon the bank. 

'Here he comes,' she murmured, and they could hear that 
her lips were dry with emotion. And I have to put my arms 
round his neck and look into his face as Marian did.' 

'There's nothing in that,' said Tess quickly. 

'There's a time for everything,' continued Izz, unheeding. 
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
the first is now going to be mine.' 

'Fie — it is Scripture, Izz!' 

'Yes,' said Izz, 'I've always a' ear at church for pretty vers- 
es.' 

Angel Clare, to whom three-quarters of this performance 
was a commonplace act of kindness, now approached Izz. 
She quietly and dreamily lowered herself into his arms, and 



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Angel methodically marched off with her. When he was 
heard returning for the third time Retty's throbbing heart 
could be almost seen to shake her. He went up to the red- 
haired girl, and while he was seizing her he glanced at Tess. 
His lips could not have pronounced more plainly, 'It will 
soon be you and I.' Her comprehension appeared in her 
face; she could not help it. There was an understanding be- 
tween them. 

Poor little Retty, though by far the lightest weight, was 
the most troublesome of Clare's burdens. Marian had been 
like a sack of meal, a dead weight of plumpness under which 
he has literally staggered. Izz had ridden sensibly and calm- 
ly. Retty was a bunch of hysterics. 

However, he got through with the disquieted creature, 
deposited her, and returned. Tess could see over the hedge 
the distant three in a group, standing as he had placed them 
on the next rising ground. It was now her turn. She was em- 
barrassed to discover that excitement at the proximity of 
Mr Clare's breath and eyes, which she had contemned in 
her companions, was intensified in herself; and as if fear- 
ful of betraying her secret, she paltered with him at the last 
moment. 

'I may be able to dim' along the bank perhaps — I can 
dim' better than they. You must be so tired, Mr Clare!' 

'No, no, Tess,' said he quickly. And almost before she was 
aware, she was seated in his arms and resting against his 
shoulder. 

'Three Leahs to get one Rachel,' he whispered. 

"They are better women than I,' she replied, magnani- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



mously sticking to her resolve. 

'Not to me,' said Angel. 

He saw her grow warm at this; and they went some steps 
in silence. 

'I hope I am not too heavy?' she said timidly. 

'O no. You should lift Marian! Such a lump. You are like 
an undulating billow warmed by the sun. And all this fluff 
of muslin about you is the froth.' 

'It is very pretty — if I seem like that to you.' 

'Do you know that I have undergone three-quarters of 
this labour entirely for the sake of the fourth quarter?' 

'No.' 

'I did not expect such an event to-day.' 

'Nor I... The water came up so sudden.' 

That the rise in the water was what she understood him 
to refer to, the state of breathing belied. Clare stood still and 
inclinced his face towards hers. 

'O Tessy!' he exclaimed. 

The girl's cheeks burned to the breeze, and she could 
not look into his eyes for her emotion. It reminded Angel 
that he was somewhat unfairly taking advantage of an acci- 
dental position; and he went no further with it. No definite 
words of love had crossed their lips as yet, and suspension 
at this point was desirable now. However, he walked slowly, 
to make the remainder of the distance as long as possible; 
but at last they came to the bend, and the rest of their prog- 
ress was in full view of the other three. The dry land was 
reached, and he set her down. 

Her friends were looking with round thoughtful eyes at 



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her and him, and she could see that they had been talking of 
her. He hastily bade them farewell, and splashed back along 
the stretch of submerged road. 

The four moved on together as before, till Marian broke 
the silence by saying — 

'No — in all truth; we have no chance against her!' She 
looked joylessly at Tess. 

'What do you mean?' asked the latter. 

'He likes 'ee best — the very best! We could see it as he 
brought 'ee. He would have kissed 'ee, if you had encour- 
aged him to do it, ever so little.' 

'No, no,' said she. 

The gaiety with which they had set out had somehow van- 
ished; and yet there was no enmity or malice between them. 
They were generous young souls; they had been reared in 
the lonely country nooks where fatalism is a strong senti- 
ment, and they did not blame her. Such supplanting was to 
be. 

Tess's heart ached. There was no concealing from herself 
the fact that she loved Angel Clare, perhaps all the more 
passionately from knowing that the others had also lost 
their hearts to him. There is contagion in this sentiment, 
especially among women. And yet that same hungry nature 
had fought against this, but too feebly, and the natural re- 
sult had followed. 

'I will never stand in your way, nor in the way of either 
of you!' she declared to Retty that night in the bedroom 
(her tears running down). 'I can't help this, my dear! I don't 
think marrying is in his mind at all; but if he were ever to 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ask me I should refuse him, as I should refuse any man.' 

'Oh! would you? Why?' said wondering Retty. 

'It cannot be! But I will be plain. Putting myself quite on 
one side, I don't think he will choose either of you.' 

'I have never expected it — thought of it!' moaned Retty. 
'But O! I wish I was dead!' 

The poor child, torn by a feeling which she hardly un- 
derstood, turned to the other two girls who came upstairs 
just then. 

'We be friends with her again,' she said to them. 'She 
thinks no more of his choosing her than we do.' 

So the reserve went off, and they were confiding and 
warm. 

'I don't seem to care what I do now,' said Marian, whose 
mood was turned to its lowest bass. 'I was going to marry 
a dairyman at Stickleford, who's asked me twice; but — my 
soul — I would put an end to myself rather'n be his wife now! 
Why don't ye speak, Izz?' 

'To confess, then,' murmured Izz, 'I made sure to-day 
that he was going to kiss me as he held me; and I lay still 
against his breast, hoping and hoping, and never moved at 
all. But he did not. I don't like biding here at Talbothays any 
longer! I shall go hwome.' 

The air of the sleeping-chamber seemed to palpitate with 
the hopeless passion of the girls. They writhed feverishly 
under the oppressiveness of an emotion thrust on them by 
cruel Nature's law — an emotion which they had neither ex- 
pected nor desired. The incident of the day had fanned the 
flame that was burning the inside of their hearts out, and 



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the torture was almost more than they could endure. The 
differences which distinguished them as individuals were 
abstracted by this passion, and each was but portion of one 
organism called sex. There was so much frankness and so 
little jealousy because there was no hope. Each one was a 
girl of fair common sense, and she did not delude herself 
with any vain conceits, or deny her love, or give herself airs, 
in the idea of outshining the others. The full recognition of 
the futility of their infatuation, from a social point of view; 
its purposeless beginning; its self-bounded outlook; its lack 
of everything to justify its existence in the eye of civilization 
(while lacking nothing in the eye of Nature); the one fact 
that it did exist, ecstasizing them to a killing joy — all this 
imparted to them a resignation, a dignity, which a practical 
and sordid expectation of winning him as a husband would 
have destroyed. 

They tossed and turned on their little beds, and the 
cheese-wring dripped monotonously downstairs. 

'B' you awake, Tess?' whispered one, half-an-hour later. 

It was Izz Huett's voice. 

Tess replied in the affirmative, whereupon also Retty 
and Marian suddenly flung the bedclothes off them, and 
sighed — 

'So be we!' 

'I wonder what she is like — the lady they say his family 
have looked out for him!' 

'I wonder,' said Izz. 

'Some lady looked out for him?' gasped Tess, starting. 'I 
have never heard o' that!' 



216 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'O yes — 'tis whispered; a young lady of his own rank, 
chosen by his family; a Doctor of Divinity's daughter near 
his father's parish of Emminster; he don't much care for her, 
they say. But he is sure to marry her.' 

They had heard so very little of this; yet it was enough 
to build up wretched dolorous dreams upon, there in the 
shade of the night. They pictured all the details of his being 
won round to consent, of the wedding preparations, of the 
bride's happiness, of her dress and veil, of her blissful home 
with him, when oblivion would have fallen upon themselves 
as far as he and their love were concerned. Thus they talked, 
and ached, and wept till sleep charmed their sorrow away. 

After this disclosure Tess nourished no further foolish 
thought that there lurked any grave and deliberate import 
in Clare's attentions to her. It was a passing summer love 
of her face, for love's own temporary sake — nothing more. 
And the thorny crown of this sad conception was that she 
whom he really did prefer in a cursory way to the rest, she 
who knew herself to be more impassioned in nature, clev- 
erer, more beautiful than they, was in the eyes of propriety 
far less worthy of him than the homelier ones whom he ig- 
nored. 



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XXIV 



Amid the oozing fatness and warm ferments of the Froom 
Vale, at a season when the rush of juices could almost be 
heard below the hiss of fertilization, it was impossible that 
the most fanciful love should not grow passionate. The 
ready bosoms existing there were impregnated by their sur- 
roundings. 

July passed over their heads, and the Thermidorean 
weather which came in its wake seemed an effort on the part 
of Nature to match the state of hearts at Talbothays Dairy. 
The air of the place, so fresh in the spring and early summer, 
was stagnant and enervating now. Its heavy scents weighed 
upon them, and at mid-day the landscape seemed lying in a 
swoon. Ethiopic scorchings browned the upper slopes of the 
pastures, but there was still bright green herbage here where 
the watercourses purled. And as Clare was oppressed by the 
outward heats, so was he burdened inwardly by waxing fer- 
vour of passion for the soft and silent Tess. 

The rains having passed, the uplands were dry. The 
wheels of the dairyman's spring-cart, as he sped home from 
market, licked up the pulverized surface of the highway, 
and were followed by white ribands of dust, as if they had 
set a thin powder-train on fire. The cows jumped wildly 
over the five -barred barton-gate, maddened by the gad-fly; 
Dairyman Crick kept his shirt-sleeves permanently rolled 



218 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



up from Monday to Saturday; open windows had no effect 
in ventilation without open doors, and in the dairy-garden 
the blackbirds and thrushes crept about under the currant- 
bushes, rather in the manner of quadrupeds than of winged 
creatures. The flies in the kitchen were lazy, teasing, and fa- 
miliar, crawling about in the unwonted places, on the floors, 
into drawers, and over the backs of the milkmaids' hands. 
Conversations were concerning sunstroke; while butter- 
making, and still more butter-keeping, was a despair. 

They milked entirely in the meads for coolness and con- 
venience, without driving in the cows. During the day the 
animals obsequiously followed the shadow of the smallest 
tree as it moved round the stem with the diurnal roll; and 
when the milkers came they could hardly stand still for the 
flies. 

On one of these afternoons four or five unmilked cows 
chanced to stand apart from the general herd, behind the 
corner of a hedge, among them being Dumpling and Old 
Pretty, who loved Tess's hands above those of any other 
maid. When she rose from her stool under a finished cow, 
Angel Clare, who had been observing her for some time, 
asked her if she would take the aforesaid creatures next. She 
silently assented, and with her stool at arm's length, and the 
pail against her knee, went round to where they stood. Soon 
the sound of Old Pretty's milk fizzing into the pail came 
through the hedge, and then Angel felt inclined to go round 
the corner also, to finish off a hard-yielding milcher who 
had strayed there, he being now as capable of this as the 
dairyman himself. 



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All the men, and some of the women, when milking, dug 
their foreheads into the cows and gazed into the pail. But 
a few — mainly the younger ones — rested their heads side- 
ways. This was Tess Durbeyfield's habit, her temple pressing 
the milcher's flank, her eyes fixed on the far end of the 
meadow with the quiet of one lost in meditation. She was 
milking Old Pretty thus, and the sun chancing to be on the 
milking-side, it shone flat upon her pink-gowned form and 
her white curtain-bonnet, and upon her profile, rendering it 
keen as a cameo cut from the dun background of the cow. 

She did not know that Clare had followed her round, and 
that he sat under his cow watching her. The stillness of her 
head and features was remarkable: she might have been in a 
trance, her eyes open, yet unseeing. Nothing in the picture 
moved but Old Pretty's tail and Tess's pink hands, the latter 
so gently as to be a rhythmic pulsation only, as if they were 
obeying a reflex stimulus, like a beating heart. 

How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was noth- 
ing ethereal about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real 
incarnation. And it was in her mouth that this culminated. 
Eyes almost as deep and speaking he had seen before, and 
cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as arched, a chin and throat 
almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen nothing to equal 
on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire 
in him that little upward lift in the middle of her red top 
lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had nev- 
er before seen a woman's lips and teeth which forced upon 
his mind with such persistent iteration the old Elizabethan 
simile of roses filled with snow. Perfect, he, as a lover, might 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



have called them off-hand. But no — they were not perfect. 
And it was the touch of the imperfect upon the would-be 
perfect that gave the sweetness, because it was that which 
gave the humanity. 

Clare had studied the curves of those lips so many times 
that he could reproduce them mentally with ease: and now, 
as they again confronted him, clothed with colour and life, 
they sent an aura over his flesh, a breeze through his nerves, 
which well nigh produced a qualm; and actually produced, 
by some mysterious physiological process, a prosaic sneeze. 

She then became conscious that he was observing her; 
but she would not show it by any change of position, though 
the curious dream-like fixity disappeared, and a close eye 
might easily have discerned that the rosiness of her face 
deepened, and then faded till only a tinge of it was left. 

The influence that had passed into Clare like an excitation 
from the sky did not die down. Resolutions, reticences, pru- 
dences, fears, fell back like a defeated battalion. He jumped 
up from his seat, and, leaving his pail to be kicked over if 
the milcher had such a mind, went quickly towards the de- 
sire of his eyes, and, kneeling down beside her, clasped her 
in his arms. 

Tess was taken completely by surprise, and she yielded to 
his embrace with unreflecting inevitableness. Having seen 
that it was really her lover who had advanced, and no one 
else, her lips parted, and she sank upon him in her momen- 
tary joy, with something very like an ecstatic cry. 

He had been on the point of kissing that too tempt- 
ing mouth, but he checked himself, for tender conscience' 



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sake. 

'Forgive me, Tess dear!' he whispered. 'I ought to have 
asked. I — did not know what I was doing. I do not mean it 
as a liberty. I am devoted to you, Tessy, dearest, in all sin- 
cerity!' 

Old Pretty by this time had looked round, puzzled; and 
seeing two people crouching under her where, by immemo- 
rial custom, there should have been only one, lifted her hind 
leg crossly. 

'She is angry — she doesn't know what we mean — she'll 
kick over the milk!' exclaimed Tess, gently striving to free 
herself, her eyes concerned with the quadruped's actions, 
her heart more deeply concerned with herself and Clare. 

She slipped up from her seat, and they stood together, 
his arm still encircling her. Tess's eyes, fixed on distance, 
began to fill. 

'Why do you cry, my darling?' he said. 

'O — I don't know!' she murmured. 

As she saw and felt more clearly the position she was in 
she became agitated and tried to withdraw. 

'Well, I have betrayed my feeling, Tess, at last,' said he, 
with a curious sigh of desperation, signifying unconscious- 
ly that his heart had outrun his judgement. 'That I — love 
you dearly and truly I need not say. But I — it shall go no fur- 
ther now — it distresses you — I am as surprised as you are. 
You will not think I have presumed upon your defenceless- 
ness — been too quick and unreflecting, will you?' 

'N'— I can't tell.' 

He had allowed her to free herself; and in a minute or 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



two the milking of each was resumed. Nobody had beheld 
the gravitation of the two into one; and when the dairyman 
came round by that screened nook a few minutes later, there 
was not a sign to reveal that the markedly sundered pair 
were more to each other than mere acquaintance. Yet in 
the interval since Crick's last view of them something had 
occurred which changed the pivot of the universe for their 
two natures; something which, had he known its quality, 
the dairyman would have despised, as a practical man; yet 
which was based upon a more stubborn and resistless ten- 
dency than a whole heap of so-called practicalities. A veil 
had been whisked aside; the tract of each one's outlook was 
to have a new horizon thenceforward — for a short time or 
for a long. 

END OF PHASE THE THIRD 



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Phase the Fourth: 
The Consequence 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXV 



Clare, restless, went out into the dusk when evening 
drew on, she who had won him having retired to her cham- 
ber. 

The night was as sultry as the day. There was no cool- 
ness after dark unless on the grass. Roads, garden-paths, the 
house-fronts, the barton-walls were warm as hearths, and 
reflected the noontime temperature into the noctambulist's 
face. 

He sat on the east gate of the dairy-yard, and knew not 
what to think of himself. Feeling had indeed smothered 
judgement that day. 

Since the sudden embrace, three hours before, the twain 
had kept apart. She seemed stilled, almost alarmed, at what 
had occurred, while the novelty, unpremeditation, mastery 
of circumstance disquieted him — palpitating, contempla- 
tive being that he was. He could hardly realize their true 
relations to each other as yet, and what their mutual bearing 
should be before third parties thenceforward. 

Angel had come as pupil to this dairy in the idea that 
his temporary existence here was to be the merest episode 
in his life, soon passed through and early forgotten; he had 
come as to a place from which as from a screened alcove 
he could calmly view the absorbing world without, and, 
apostrophizing it with Walt Whitman — 



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Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, 
How curious you are to me! — 

resolve upon a plan for plunging into that world anew. 
But behold, the absorbing scene had been imported hith- 
er. What had been the engrossing world had dissolved into 
an uninteresting outer dumb-show; while here, in this 
apparently dim and unimpassioned place, novelty had vol- 
canically started up, as it had never, for him, started up 
elsewhere. 

Every window of the house being open, Clare could hear 
across the yard each trivial sound of the retiring household. 
The dairy-house, so humble, so insignificant, so purely to 
him a place of constrained sojourn that he had never hither- 
to deemed it of sufficient importance to be reconnoitred as 
an object of any quality whatever in the landscape; what was 
it now? The aged and lichened brick gables breathed forth 
'Stay!' The windows smiled, the door coaxed and beckoned, 
the creeper blushed confederacy. A personality within it 
was so far-reaching in her influence as to spread into and 
make the bricks, mortar, and whole overhanging sky throb 
with a burning sensibility. Whose was this mighty person- 
ality? A milkmaid's. 

It was amazing, indeed, to find how great a matter the 
life of the obscure dairy had become to him. And though 
new love was to be held partly responsible for this, it was not 
solely so. Many besides Angel have learnt that the magni- 
tude of lives is not as to their external displacements, but as 
to their subjective experiences. The impressionable peasant 
leads a larger, fuller, more dramatic life than the pachy- 



226 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



dermatous king. Looking at it thus, he found that life was to 
be seen of the same magnitude here as elsewhere. 

Despite his heterodoxy, faults, and weaknesses, Clare was 
a man with a conscience. Tess was no insignificant creature 
to toy with and dismiss; but a woman living her precious 
life — a life which, to herself who endured or enjoyed it, pos- 
sessed as great a dimension as the life of the mightiest to 
himself. Upon her sensations the whole world depended to 
Tess; through her existence all her fellow-creatures existed, 
to her. The universe itself only came into being for Tess on 
the particular day in the particular year in which she was 
born. 

This consciousness upon which he had intruded was the 
single opportunity of existence ever vouchsafed to Tess by 
an unsympathetic First Cause — her all; her every and only 
chance. How then should he look upon her as of less con- 
sequence than himself; as a pretty trifle to caress and grow 
weary of; and not deal in the greatest seriousness with the 
affection which he knew that he had awakened in her — so 
fervid and so impressionable as she was under her reserve — 
in order that it might not agonize and wreck her? 

To encounter her daily in the accustomed manner would 
be to develop what had begun. Living in such close rela- 
tions, to meet meant to fall into endearment; flesh and blood 
could not resist it; and, having arrived at no conclusion as to 
the issue of such a tendency, he decided to hold aloof for the 
present from occupations in which they would be mutually 
engaged. As yet the harm done was small. 

But it was not easy to carry out the resolution never to 



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approach her. He was driven towards her by every heave of 
his pulse. 

He thought he would go and see his friends. It might be 
possible to sound them upon this. In less than five months 
his term here would have ended, and after a few additional 
months spent upon other farms he would be fully equipped 
in agricultural knowledge and in a position to start on his 
own account. Would not a farmer want a wife, and should 
a farmer's wife be a drawing-room wax-figure, or a wom- 
an who understood farming? Notwithstanding the pleasing 
answer returned to him by the silence, he resolved to go his 
journey. 

One morning when they sat down to breakfast at Tal- 
bothays Dairy some maid observed that she had not seen 
anything of Mr Clare that day. 

'O no,' said Dairyman Crick. 'Mr Clare has gone hwome 
to Emminster to spend a few days wi' his kinsfolk.' 

For four impassioned ones around that table the sun- 
shine of the morning went out at a stroke, and the birds 
muffled their song. But neither girl by word or gesture re- 
vealed her blankness. 'He's getting on towards the end of 
his time wi' me,' added the dairyman, with a phlegm which 
unconsciously was brutal; 'and so I suppose he is beginning 
to see about his plans elsewhere.' 

'How much longer is he to bide here?' asked Izz Huett, 
the only one of the gloom-stricken bevy who could trust her 
voice with the question. 

The others waited for the dairyman's answer as if their 
lives hung upon it; Retty, with parted lips, gazing on the 



22« 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



tablecloth, Marian with heat added to her redness, Tess 
throbbing and looking out at the meads. 

'Well, I can't mind the exact day without looking at my 
memorandum-book,' replied Crick, with the same intoler- 
able unconcern. 'And even that may be altered a bit. He'll 
bide to get a little practice in the calving out at the straw- 
yard, for certain. He'll hang on till the end of the year I 
should say' 

Four months or so of torturing ecstasy in his society — of 
'pleasure girdled about with pain". After that the blackness 
of unutterable night. 

At this moment of the morning Angel Clare was riding 
along a narrow lane ten miles distant from the breakfasters, 
in the direction of his father's Vicarage at Emminster, car- 
rying, as well as he could, a little basket which contained 
some black-puddings and a bottle of mead, sent by Mrs 
Crick, with her kind respects, to his parents. The white lane 
stretched before him, and his eyes were upon it; but they 
were staring into next year, and not at the lane. He loved 
her; ought he to marry her? Dared he to marry her? What 
would his mother and his brothers say? What would he him- 
self say a couple of years after the event? That would depend 
upon whether the germs of staunch comradeship underlay 
the temporary emotion, or whether it were a sensuous joy in 
her form only, with no substratum of everlastingness. 

His father's hill-surrounded little town, the Tudor 
church-tower of red stone, the clump of trees near the Vic- 
arage, came at last into view beneath him, and he rode 
down towards the well-known gate. Casting a glance in the 



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direction of the church before entering his home, he beheld 
standing by the vestry-door a group of girls, of ages between 
twelve and sixteen, apparently awaiting the arrival of some 
other one, who in a moment became visible; a figure some- 
what older than the school-girls, wearing a broad-brimmed 
hat and highly-starched cambric morning-gown, with a 
couple of books in her hand. 

Clare knew her well. He could not be sure that she 
observed him; he hoped she did not, so as to render it unnec- 
essary that he should go and speak to her, blameless creature 
that she was. An overpowering reluctance to greet her made 
him decide that she had not seen him. The young lady was 
Miss Mercy Chant, the only daughter of his father's neigh- 
bour and friend, whom it was his parents' quiet hope that 
he might wed some day. She was great at Antinomianism 
and Bible-classes, and was plainly going to hold a class now. 
Clare's mind flew to the impassioned, summer-steeped hea- 
thens in the Var Vale, their rosy faces court-patched with 
cow-droppings; and to one the most impassioned of them 
all. 

It was on the impulse of the moment that he had re- 
solved to trot over to Emminster, and hence had not written 
to apprise his mother and father, aiming, however, to ar- 
rive about the breakfast hour, before they should have gone 
out to their parish duties. He was a little late, and they had 
already sat down to the morning meal. The group at the ta- 
ble jumped up to welcome him as soon as he entered. They 
were his father and mother, his brother the Reverend Fe- 
lix — curate at a town in the adjoining county, home for the 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



inside of a fortnight — and his other brother, the Reverend 
Cuthbert, the classical scholar, and Fellow and Dean of his 
College, down from Cambridge for the long vacation. His 
mother appeared in a cap and silver spectacles, and his fa- 
ther looked what in fact he was — an earnest, God-fearing 
man, somewhat gaunt, in years about sixty-five, his pale 
face lined with thought and purpose. Over their heads hung 
the picture of Angel's sister, the eldest of the family, sixteen 
years his senior, who had married a missionary and gone 
out to Africa. 

Old Mr Clare was a clergyman of a type which, within 
the last twenty years, has well nigh dropped out of contem- 
porary life. A spiritual descendant in the direct line from 
Wycliff, Huss, Luther, Calvin; an Evangelical of the Evan- 
gelicals, a Conversionist, a man of Apostolic simplicity in 
life and thought, he had in his raw youth made up his mind 
once for all in the deeper questions of existence, and ad- 
mitted no further reasoning on them thenceforward. He 
was regarded even by those of his own date and school of 
thinking as extreme; while, on the other hand, those total- 
ly opposed to him were unwillingly won to admiration for 
his thoroughness, and for the remarkable power he showed 
in dismissing all question as to principles in his energy for 
applying them. He loved Paul of Tarsus, liked St John, hat- 
ed St James as much as he dared, and regarded with mixed 
feelings Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The New Testament 
was less a Christiad then a Pauliad to his intelligence — less 
an argument than an intoxication. His creed of determin- 
ism was such that it almost amounted to a vice, and quite 



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amounted, on its negative side, to a renunciative philoso- 
phy which had cousinship with that of Schopenhauer and 
Leopardi. He despised the Canons and Rubric, swore by the 
Articles, and deemed himself consistent through the whole 
category — which in a way he might have been. One thing he 
certainly was — sincere. 

To the aesthetic, sensuous, pagan pleasure in natural 
life and lush womanhood which his son Angel had lately 
been experiencing in Var Vale, his temper would have been 
antipathetic in a high degree, had he either by inquiry or 
imagination been able to apprehend it. Once upon a time 
Angel had been so unlucky as to say to his father, in a mo- 
ment of irritation, that it might have resulted far better for 
mankind if Greece had been the source of the religion of 
modern civilization, and not Palestine; and his father's grief 
was of that blank description which could not realize that 
there might lurk a thousandth part of a truth, much less a 
half truth or a whole truth, in such a proposition. He had 
simply preached austerely at Angel for some time after. But 
the kindness of his heart was such that he never resented 
anything for long, and welcomed his son to-day with a 
smile which was as candidly sweet as a child's. 

Angel sat down, and the place felt like home; yet he 
did not so much as formerly feel himself one of the family 
gathered there. Every time that he returned hither he was 
conscious of this divergence, and since he had last shared in 
the Vicarage life it had grown even more distinctly foreign 
to his own than usual. Its transcendental aspirations — still 
unconsciously based on the geocentric view of things, a ze- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



nithal paradise, a nadiral hell — were as foreign to his own 
as if they had been the dreams of people on another planet. 
Latterly he had seen only Life, felt only the great passionate 
pulse of existence, unwarped, uncontorted, untrammelled 
by those creeds which futilely attempt to check what wis- 
dom would be content to regulate. 

On their part they saw a great difference in him, a grow- 
ing divergence from the Angel Clare of former times. It was 
chiefly a difference in his manner that they noticed just 
now, particularly his brothers. He was getting to behave 
like a farmer; he flung his legs about; the muscles of his face 
had grown more expressive; his eyes looked as much infor- 
mation as his tongue spoke, and more. The manner of the 
scholar had nearly disappeared; still more the manner of 
the drawing-room young man. A prig would have said that 
he had lost culture, and a prude that he had become coarse. 
Such was the contagion of domiciliary fellowship with the 
Talbothays nymphs and swains. 

After breakfast he walked with his two brothers, non- 
evangelical, well-educated, hall-marked young men, correct 
to their remotest fibre, such unimpeachable models as are 
turned out yearly by the lathe of a systematic tuition. They 
were both somewhat short-sighted, and when it was the 
custom to wear a single eyeglass and string they wore a sin- 
gle eyeglass and string; when it was the custom to wear a 
double glass they wore a double glass; when it was the cus- 
tom to wear spectacles they wore spectacles straightway, all 
without reference to the particular variety of defect in their 
own vision. When Wordsworth was enthroned they carried 



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pocket copies; and when Shelley was belittled they allowed 
him to grow dusty on their shelves. When Correggio's Holy 
Families were admired, they admired Correggio's Holy 
Families; when he was decried in favour of Velasquez, they 
sedulously followed suit without any personal objection. 

If these two noticed Angel's growing social ineptness, he 
noticed their growing mental limitations. Felix seemed to 
him all Church; Cuthbert all College. His Diocesan Synod 
and Visitations were the mainsprings of the world to the 
one; Cambridge to the other. Each brother candidly recog- 
nized that there were a few unimportant score of millions 
of outsiders in civilized society, persons who were neither 
University men nor churchmen; but they were to be toler- 
ated rather than reckoned with and respected. 

They were both dutiful and attentive sons, and were reg- 
ular in their visits to their parents. Felix, though an offshoot 
from a far more recent point in the devolution of theology 
than his father, was less self-sacrificing and disinterested. 
More tolerant than his father of a contradictory opinion, 
in its aspect as a danger to its holder, he was less ready than 
his father to pardon it as a slight to his own teaching. Cuth- 
bert was, upon the whole, the more liberal-minded, though, 
with greater subtlety, he had not so much heart. 

As they walked along the hillside Angel's former feeling 
revived in him — that whatever their advantages by compar- 
ison with himself, neither saw or set forth life as it really 
was lived. Perhaps, as with many men, their opportuni- 
ties of observation were not so good as their opportunities 
of expression. Neither had an adequate conception of the 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



complicated forces at work outside the smooth and gentle 
current in which they and their associates floated. Neither 
saw the difference between local truth and universal truth; 
that what the inner world said in their clerical and academ- 
ic hearing was quite a different thing from what the outer 
world was thinking. 

'I suppose it is farming or nothing for you now, my dear 
fellow,' Felix was saying, among other things, to his young- 
est brother, as he looked through his spectacles at the distant 
fields with sad austerity. And, therefore, we must make the 
best of it. But I do entreat you to endeavour to keep as much 
as possible in touch with moral ideals. Farming, of course, 
means roughing it externally; but high thinking may go 
with plain living, nevertheless.' 

'Of course it may,' said Angel. 'Was it not proved nineteen 
hundred years ago — if I may trespass upon your domain a 
little? Why should you think, Felix, that I am likely to drop 
my high thinking and my moral ideals?' 

'Well, I fancied, from the tone of your letters and our con- 
versation — it may be fancy only — that you were somehow 
losing intellectual grasp. Hasn't it struck you, Cuthbert?' 

'Now, Felix,' said Angel drily, 'we are very good friends, 
you know; each of us treading our allotted circles; but if it 
comes to intellectual grasp, I think you, as a contented dog- 
matist, had better leave mine alone, and inquire what has 
become of yours.' 

They returned down the hill to dinner, which was fixed at 
any time at which their father's and mother's morning work 
in the parish usually concluded. Convenience as regarded 



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afternoon callers was the last thing to enter into the con- 
sideration of unselfish Mr and Mrs Clare; though the three 
sons were sufficiently in unison on this matter to wish that 
their parents would conform a little to modern notions. 

The walk had made them hungry, Angel in particular, 
who was now an outdoor man, accustomed to the profuse 
dapes inemptae of the dairyman's somewhat coarsely-lad- 
en table. But neither of the old people had arrived, and it 
was not till the sons were almost tired of waiting that their 
parents entered. The self-denying pair had been occupied 
in coaxing the appetites of some of their sick parishioners, 
whom they, somewhat inconsistently, tried to keep impris- 
oned in the flesh, their own appetites being quite forgotten. 

The family sat down to table, and a frugal meal of cold 
viands was deposited before them. Angel looked round for 
Mrs Crick's black-puddings, which he had directed to be 
nicely grilled as they did them at the dairy, and of which he 
wished his father and mother to appreciate the marvellous 
herbal savours as highly as he did himself. 

Ah! you are looking for the black-puddings, my dear 
boy,' observed Clare's mother. 'But I am sure you will not 
mind doing without them as I am sure your father and I 
shall not, when you know the reason. I suggested to him 
that we should take Mrs Crick's kind present to the children 
of the man who can earn nothing just now because of his at- 
tacks of delirium tremens; and he agreed that it would be a 
great pleasure to them; so we did.' 

'Of course,' said Angel cheerfully, looking round for the 
mead. 



236 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I found the mead so extremely alcoholic,' continued his 
mother, 'that it was quite unfit for use as a beverage, but as 
valuable as rum or brandy in an emergency; so I have put it 
in my medicine-closet.' 

'We never drink spirits at this table, on principle,' added 
his father. 

'But what shall I tell the dairyman's wife?' said Angel. 

'The truth, of course,' said his father. 

'I rather wanted to say we enjoyed the mead and the 
black-puddings very much. She is a kind, jolly sort of body, 
and is sure to ask me directly I return.' 

'You cannot, if we did not,' Mr Clare answered lucidly. 

Ah — no; though that mead was a drop of pretty tipple.' 

A what?' said Cuthbert and Felix both. 

'Oh — 'tis an expression they use down at Talbothays,' re- 
plied Angel, blushing. He felt that his parents were right in 
their practice if wrong in their want of sentiment, and said 
no more. 



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XXVI 



It was not till the evening, after family prayers, that An- 
gel found opportunity of broaching to his father one or two 
subjects near his heart. He had strung himself up to the 
purpose while kneeling behind his brothers on the carpet, 
studying the little nails in the heels of their walking boots. 
When the service was over they went out of the room with 
their mother, and Mr Clare and himself were left alone. 

The young man first discussed with the elder his plans 
for the attainment of his position as a farmer on an exten- 
sive scale — either in England or in the Colonies. His father 
then told him that, as he had not been put to the expense of 
sending Angel up to Cambridge, he had felt it his duty to set 
by a sum of money every year towards the purchase or lease 
of land for him some day, that he might not feel himself un- 
duly slighted. 

As far as worldly wealth goes,' continued his father, 'you 
will no doubt stand far superior to your brothers in a few 
years.' 

This considerateness on old Mr Clare's part led Angel 
onward to the other and dearer subject. He observed to 
his father that he was then six-and-twenty, and that when 
he should start in the farming business he would require 
eyes in the back of his head to see to all matters — some one 
would be necessary to superintend the domestic labours of 



2_(S 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



his establishment whilst he was afield. Would it not be well, 
therefore, for him to marry? 

His father seemed to think this idea not unreasonable; 
and then Angel put the question — 

'What kind of wife do you think would be best for me as 
a thrifty hard-working farmer?' 

A truly Christian woman, who will be a help and a com- 
fort to you in your goings-out and your comings-in. Beyond 
that, it really matters little. Such an one can be found; indeed, 
my earnest-minded friend and neighbour, Dr Chant — ' 

'But ought she not primarily to be able to milk cows, 
churn good butter, make immense cheeses; know how to 
sit hens and turkeys and rear chickens, to direct a field of 
labourers in an emergency, and estimate the value of sheep 
and calves?' 

'Yes; a farmer's wife; yes, certainly. It would be desir- 
able.' Mr Clare, the elder, had plainly never thought of 
these points before. 'I was going to add,' he said, 'that for 
a pure and saintly woman you will not find one more to 
your true advantage, and certainly not more to your moth- 
er's mind and my own, than your friend Mercy, whom you 
used to show a certain interest in. It is true that my neigh- 
bour Chant's daughter had lately caught up the fashion of 
the younger clergy round about us for decorating the Com- 
munion-table — altar, as I was shocked to hear her call it one 
day — with flowers and other stuff on festival occasions. But 
her father, who is quite as opposed to such flummery as I, 
says that can be cured. It is a mere girlish outbreak which, I 
am sure, will not be permanent.' 



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'Yes, yes; Mercy is good and devout, I know. But, father, 
don't you think that a young woman equally pure and vir- 
tuous as Miss Chant, but one who, in place of that lady's 
ecclesiastical accomplishments, understands the duties of 
farm life as well as a farmer himself, would suit me infi- 
nitely better?' 

His father persisted in his conviction that a knowledge 
of a farmer's wife's duties came second to a Pauline view 
of humanity; and the impulsive Angel, wishing to honour 
his father's feelings and to advance the cause of his heart 
at the same time, grew specious. He said that fate or Prov- 
idence had thrown in his way a woman who possessed 
every qualification to be the helpmate of an agriculturist, 
and was decidedly of a serious turn of mind. He would not 
say whether or not she had attached herself to the sound 
Low Church School of his father; but she would probably be 
open to conviction on that point; she was a regular church- 
goer of simple faith; honest-hearted, receptive, intelligent, 
graceful to a degree, chaste as a vestal, and, in personal ap- 
pearance, exceptionally beautiful. 

'Is she of a family such as you would care to marry in- 
to — a lady, in short?' asked his startled mother, who had 
come softly into the study during the conversation. 

'She is not what in common parlance is called a lady,' 
said Angel, unflinchingly, 'for she is a cottager's daughter, 
as I am proud to say. But she IS a lady, nevertheless — in feel- 
ing and nature.' 

'Mercy Chant is of a very good family.' 

'Pooh! — what's the advantage of that, mother?' said An- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



gel quickly. 'How is family to avail the wife of a man who 
has to rough it as I have, and shall have to do?' 

'Mercy is accomplished. And accomplishments have 
their charm,' returned his mother, looking at him through 
her silver spectacles. 

As to external accomplishments, what will be the use of 
them in the life I am going to lead? — while as to her read- 
ing, I can take that in hand. She'll be apt pupil enough, as 
you would say if you knew her. She's brim full of poetry — 
actualized poetry, if I may use the expression. She LIVES 
what paper-poets only write... And she is an unimpeachable 
Christian, I am sure; perhaps of the very tribe, genus, and 
species you desire to propagate.' 

'O Angel, you are mocking!' 

'Mother, I beg pardon. But as she really does attend 
Church almost every Sunday morning, and is a good Chris- 
tian girl, I am sure you will tolerate any social shortcomings 
for the sake of that quality, and feel that I may do worse than 
choose her.' Angel waxed quite earnest on that rather auto- 
matic orthodoxy in his beloved Tess which (never dreaming 
that it might stand him in such good stead) he had been 
prone to slight when observing it practised by her and the 
other milkmaids, because of its obvious unreality amid be- 
liefs essentially naturalistic. 

In their sad doubts as to whether their son had himself 
any right whatever to the title he claimed for the unknown 
young woman, Mr and Mrs Clare began to feel it as an ad- 
vantage not to be overlooked that she at least was sound in 
her views; especially as the conjunction of the pair must 



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have arisen by an act of Providence; for Angel never would 
have made orthodoxy a condition of his choice. They said 
finally that it was better not to act in a hurry, but that they 
would not object to see her. 

Angel therefore refrained from declaring more particu- 
lars now. He felt that, single-minded and self-sacrificing as 
his parents were, there yet existed certain latent prejudic- 
es of theirs, as middle-class people, which it would require 
some tact to overcome. For though legally at liberty to do 
as he chose, and though their daughter-in-law's qualifica- 
tions could make no practical difference to their lives, in 
the probability of her living far away from them, he wished 
for affection's sake not to wound their sentiment in the most 
important decision of his life. 

He observed his own inconsistencies in dwelling upon 
accidents in Tess's life as if they were vital features. It was 
for herself that he loved Tess; her soul, her heart, her sub- 
stance — not for her skill in the dairy, her aptness as his 
scholar, and certainly not for her simple formal faith-pro- 
fessions. Her unsophisticated open-air existence required 
no varnish of conventionality to make it palatable to him. 
He held that education had as yet but little affected the beats 
of emotion and impulse on which domestic happiness de- 
pends. It was probable that, in the lapse of ages, improved 
systems of moral and intellectual training would apprecia- 
bly, perhaps considerably, elevate the involuntary and even 
the unconscious instincts of human nature; but up to the 
present day, culture, as far as he could see, might be said to 
have affected only the mental epiderm of those lives which 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



had been brought under its influence. This belief was con- 
firmed by his experience of women, which, having latterly 
been extended from the cultivated middle-class into the 
rural community, had taught him how much less was the 
intrinsic difference between the good and wise woman of 
one social stratum and the good and wise woman of anoth- 
er social stratum, than between the good and bad, the wise 
and the foolish, of the same stratum or class. 

It was the morning of his departure. His brothers had al- 
ready left the Vicarage to proceed on a walking tour in the 
north, whence one was to return to his college, and the oth- 
er to his curacy. Angel might have accompanied them, but 
preferred to rejoin his sweetheart at Talbothays. He would 
have been an awkward member of the party; for, though 
the most appreciative humanist, the most ideal religionist, 
even the best-versed Christologist of the three, there was 
alienation in the standing consciousness that his square- 
ness would not fit the round hole that had been prepared 
for him. To neither Felix nor Cuthbert had he ventured to 
mention Tess. 

His mother made him sandwiches, and his father accom- 
panied him, on his own mare, a little way along the road. 
Having fairly well advanced his own affairs, Angel listened 
in a willing silence, as they jogged on together through the 
shady lanes, to his father's account of his parish difficulties, 
and the coldness of brother clergymen whom he loved, be- 
cause of his strict interpretations of the New Testament by 
the light of what they deemed a pernicious Calvinistic doc- 
trine. 



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'Pernicious!' said Mr Clare, with genial scorn; and he 
proceeded to recount experiences which would show the 
absurdity of that idea. He told of wondrous conversions of 
evil livers of which he had been the instrument, not only 
amongst the poor, but amongst the rich and well-to-do; and 
he also candidly admitted many failures. 

As an instance of the latter, he mentioned the case of a 
young upstart squire named d'Urberville, living some forty 
miles off, in the neighbourhood of Trantridge. 

'Not one of the ancient d'Urbervilles of Kingsbere and 
other places?' asked his son. "That curiously historic worn- 
out family with its ghostly legend of the coach-and-four?' 

'O no. The original d'Urbervilles decayed and disap- 
peared sixty or eighty years ago — at least, I believe so. This 
seems to be a new family which had taken the name; for the 
credit of the former knightly line I hope they are spurious, 
I'm sure. But it is odd to hear you express interest in old 
families. I thought you set less store by them even than I.' 

'You misapprehend me, father; you often do,' said An- 
gel with a little impatience. 'Politically I am sceptical as to 
the virtue of their being old. Some of the wise even among 
themselves 'exclaim against their own succession,' as Ham- 
let puts it; but lyrically, dramatically, and even historically, I 
am tenderly attached to them.' 

This distinction, though by no means a subtle one, was 
yet too subtle for Mr Clare the elder, and he went on with 
the story he had been about to relate; which was that af- 
ter the death of the senior so-called d'Urberville, the young 
man developed the most culpable passions, though he had 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



a blind mother, whose condition should have made him 
know better. A knowledge of his career having come to the 
ears of Mr Clare, when he was in that part of the country 
preaching missionary sermons, he boldly took occasion to 
speak to the delinquent on his spiritual state. Though he 
was a stranger, occupying another's pulpit, he had felt this 
to be his duty, and took for his text the words from St Luke: 
"Ihou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee!' The 
young man much resented this directness of attack, and in 
the war of words which followed when they met he did not 
scruple publicly to insult Mr Clare, without respect for his 
gray hairs. 

Angel flushed with distress. 

'Dear father,' he said sadly, 'I wish you would not expose 
yourself to such gratuitous pain from scoundrels!' 

'Pain?' said his father, his rugged face shining in the ar- 
dour of self-abnegation. 'The only pain to me was pain on 
his account, poor, foolish young man. Do you suppose his 
incensed words could give me any pain, or even his blows? 
'Being reviled we bless; being persecuted we suffer it; being 
defamed we entreat; we are made as the filth of the world, 
and as the offscouring of all things unto this day' Those an- 
cient and noble words to the Corinthians are strictly true at 
this present hour.' 

'Not blows, father? He did not proceed to blows?' 

'No, he did not. Though I have borne blows from men in 
a mad state of intoxication.' 

'No!' 

A dozen times, my boy. What then? I have saved them 



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from the guilt of murdering their own flesh and blood 
thereby; and they have lived to thank me, and praise God.' 

'May this young man do the same!' said Angel fervently. 
'But I fear otherwise, from what you say' 

'We'll hope, nevertheless,' said Mr Clare. 'And I continue 
to pray for him, though on this side of the grave we shall 
probably never meet again. But, after all, one of those poor 
words of mine may spring up in his heart as a good seed 
some day' 

Now, as always, Clare's father was sanguine as a child; 
and though the younger could not accept his parent's narrow 
dogma, he revered his practice and recognized the hero un- 
der the pietist. Perhaps he revered his father's practice even 
more now than ever, seeing that, in the question of making 
Tessy his wife, his father had not once thought of inquir- 
ing whether she were well provided or penniless. The same 
unworldliness was what had necessitated Angel's getting a 
living as a farmer, and would probably keep his brothers in 
the position of poor parsons for the term of their activities; 
yet Angel admired it none the less. Indeed, despite his own 
heterodoxy, Angel often felt that he was nearer to his father 
on the human side than was either of his brethren. 



246 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXVII 



An up-hill and down-hill ride of twenty-odd miles 
through a garish mid-day atmosphere brought him in the 
afternoon to a detached knoll a mile or two west of Tal- 
bothays, whence he again looked into that green trough of 
sappiness and humidity, the valley of the Var or Froom. Im- 
mediately he began to descend from the upland to the fat 
alluvial soil below, the atmosphere grew heavier; the lan- 
guid perfume of the summer fruits, the mists, the hay, the 
flowers, formed therein a vast pool of odour which at this 
hour seemed to make the animals, the very bees and butter- 
flies drowsy. Clare was now so familiar with the spot that he 
knew the individual cows by their names when, a long dis- 
tance off, he saw them dotted about the meads. It was with a 
sense of luxury that he recognized his power of viewing life 
here from its inner side, in a way that had been quite for- 
eign to him in his student-days; and, much as he loved his 
parents, he could not help being aware that to come here, 
as now, after an experience of home-life, affected him like 
throwing off splints and bandages; even the one customary 
curb on the humours of English rural societies being absent 
in this place, Talbothays having no resident landlord. 

Not a human being was out of doors at the dairy. The den- 
izens were all enjoying the usual afternoon nap of an hour 
or so which the exceedingly early hours kept in summer- 



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time rendered a necessity. At the door the wood-hooped 
pails, sodden and bleached by infinite scrubbings, hung 
like hats on a stand upon the forked and peeled limb of an 
oak fixed there for that purpose; all of them ready and dry 
for the evening milking. Angel entered, and went through 
the silent passages of the house to the back quarters, where 
he listened for a moment. Sustained snores came from the 
cart-house, where some of the men were lying down; the 
grunt and squeal of sweltering pigs arose from the still fur- 
ther distance. The large-leaved rhubarb and cabbage plants 
slept too, their broad limp surfaces hanging in the sun like 
half- closed umbrellas. 

He unbridled and fed his horse, and as he re-entered the 
house the clock struck three. Three was the afternoon skim- 
ming-hour; and, with the stroke, Clare heard the creaking 
of the floor-boards above, and then the touch of a descend- 
ing foot on the stairs. It was Tess's, who in another moment 
came down before his eyes. 

She had not heard him enter, and hardly realized his 
presence there. She was yawning, and he saw the red interi- 
or of her mouth as if it had been a snake's. She had stretched 
one arm so high above her coiled-up cable of hair that he 
could see its satin delicacy above the sunburn; her face was 
flushed with sleep, and her eyelids hung heavy over their 
pupils. The brim-fulness of her nature breathed from her. It 
was a moment when a woman's soul is more incarnate than 
at any other time; when the most spiritual beauty bespeaks 
itself flesh; and sex takes the outside place in the presenta- 
tion. 



24s 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Then those eyes flashed brightly through their filmy 
heaviness, before the remainder of her face was well awake. 
With an oddly compounded look of gladness, shyness, and 
surprise, she exclaimed — 'O Mr Clare! How you frightened 
me — I — ' 

There had not at first been time for her to think of the 
changed relations which his declaration had introduced; 
but the full sense of the matter rose up in her face when she 
encountered Clare's tender look as he stepped forward to 
the bottom stair. 

'Dear, darling Tessy!' he whispered, putting his arm 
round her, and his face to her flushed cheek. 'Don't, for 
Heaven's sake, Mister me any more. I have hastened back so 
soon because of you!' 

Tess's excitable heart beat against his by way of reply; and 
there they stood upon the red-brick floor of the entry, the 
sun slanting in by the window upon his back, as he held 
her tightly to his breast; upon her inclining face, upon the 
blue veins of her temple, upon her naked arm, and her neck, 
and into the depths of her hair. Having been lying down 
in her clothes she was warm as a sunned cat. At first she 
would not look straight up at him, but her eyes soon lifted, 
and his plumbed the deepness of the ever-varying pupils, 
with their radiating fibrils of blue, and black, and gray, and 
violet, while she regarded him as Eve at her second waking 
might have regarded Adam. 

'I've got to go a-skimming,' she pleaded, 'and I have on'y 
old Deb to help me to-day. Mrs Crick is gone to market with 
Mr Crick, and Retty is not well, and the others are gone out 



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somewhere, and won't be home till milking.' 

As they retreated to the milk-house Deborah Fyander 
appeared on the stairs. 

'I have come back, Deborah,' said Mr Clare, upwards. 
'So I can help Tess with the skimming; and, as you are very 
tired, I am sure, you needn't come down till milking-time.' 

Possibly the Talbothays milk was not very thorough- 
ly skimmed that afternoon. Tess was in a dream wherein 
familiar objects appeared as having light and shade and 
position, but no particular outline. Every time she held the 
skimmer under the pump to cool it for the work her hand 
trembled, the ardour of his affection being so palpable that 
she seemed to flinch under it like a plant in too burning a 
sun. 

Then he pressed her again to his side, and when she had 
done running her forefinger round the leads to cut off the 
cream-edge, he cleaned it in nature's way; for the uncon- 
strained manners of Talbothays dairy came convenient 
now. 

'I may as well say it now as later, dearest,' he resumed 
gently. 'I wish to ask you something of a very practical na- 
ture, which I have been thinking of ever since that day last 
week in the meads. I shall soon want to marry, and, being 
a farmer, you see I shall require for my wife a woman who 
knows all about the management of farms. Will you be that 
woman, Tessy?' 

He put it that way that she might not think he had yield- 
ed to an impulse of which his head would disapprove. 

She turned quite careworn. She had bowed to the inevi- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



table result of proximity, the necessity of loving him; but 
she had not calculated upon this sudden corollary, which, 
indeed, Clare had put before her without quite mean- 
ing himself to do it so soon. With pain that was like the 
bitterness of dissolution she murmured the words of her in- 
dispensable and sworn answer as an honourable woman. 

'O Mr Clare — I cannot be your wife — I cannot be!' 

The sound of her own decision seemed to break Tess's 
very heart, and she bowed her face in her grief. 

'But, Tess!' he said, amazed at her reply, and holding her 
still more greedily close. 'Do you say no? Surely you love 
me?' 

'O yes, yes! And I would rather be yours than anybody's 
in the world,' returned the sweet and honest voice of the dis- 
tressed girl. 'But I CANNOT marry you!' 

'Tess,' he said, holding her at arm's length, 'you are en- 
gaged to marry some one else!' 

'No, no!' 

'Then why do you refuse me?' 

'I don't want to marry! I have not thought of doing it. I 
cannot! I only want to love you.' 

'But why?' 

Driven to subterfuge, she stammered — 

'Your father is a parson, and your mother wouldn' like 
you to marry such as me. She will want you to marry a 
lady.' 

'Nonsense — I have spoken to them both. That was partly 
why I went home.' 

'I feel I cannot — never, never!' she echoed. 



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'Is it too sudden to be asked thus, my Pretty?' 

'Yes — I did not expect it.' 

'If you will let it pass, please, Tessy, I will give you time,' 
he said. 'It was very abrupt to come home and speak to you 
all at once. I'll not allude to it again for a while.' 

She again took up the shining skimmer, held it beneath 
the pump, and began anew. But she could not, as at oth- 
er times, hit the exact under-surface of the cream with the 
delicate dexterity required, try as she might; sometimes she 
was cutting down into the milk, sometimes in the air. She 
could hardly see, her eyes having filled with two blurring 
tears drawn forth by a grief which, to this her best friend 
and dear advocate, she could never explain. 

'I can't skim — I can't!' she said, turning away from him. 

Not to agitate and hinder her longer, the considerate 
Clare began talking in a more general way: 

You quite misapprehend my parents. They are the most 
simple-mannered people alive, and quite unambitious. They 
are two of the few remaining Evangelical school. Tessy, are 
you an Evangelical?' 

'I don't know.' 

'You go to church very regularly, and our parson here is 
not very High, they tell me.' 

Tess's ideas on the views of the parish clergyman, whom 
she heard every week, seemed to be rather more vague than 
Clare's, who had never heard him at all. 

'I wish I could fix my mind on what I hear there more 
firmly than I do,' she remarked as a safe generality. 'It is of- 
ten a great sorrow to me.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She spoke so unaffectedly that Angel was sure in his heart 
that his father could not object to her on religious grounds, 
even though she did not know whether her principles were 
High, Low or Broad. He himself knew that, in reality, the 
confused beliefs which she held, apparently imbibed in 
childhood, were, if anything, Tractarian as to phraseolo- 
gy, and Pantheistic as to essence. Confused or otherwise, to 
disturb them was his last desire: 

Leave thou thy sister, when she prays, 
Her early Heaven, her happy views; 
Nor thou with shadow 'd hint confuse 
A life that leads melodious days. 

He had occasionally thought the counsel less honest than 
musical; but he gladly conformed to it now. 

He spoke further of the incidents of his visit, of his fa- 
ther's mode of life, of his zeal for his principles; she grew 
serener, and the undulations disappeared from her skim- 
ming; as she finished one lead after another he followed her, 
and drew the plugs for letting down the milk. 

'I fancied you looked a little downcast when you came 
in,' she ventured to observe, anxious to keep away from the 
subject of herself. 

'Yes — well, my father had been talking a good deal to me 
of his troubles and difficulties, and the subject always tends 
to depress me. He is so zealous that he gets many snubs and 
buffetings from people of a different way of thinking from 
himself, and I don't like to hear of such humiliations to a 



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man of his age, the more particularly as I don't think ear- 
nestness does any good when carried so far. He has been 
telling me of a very unpleasant scene in which he took part 
quite recently. He went as the deputy of some missionary 
society to preach in the neighbourhood of Trantridge, a 
place forty miles from here, and made it his business to ex- 
postulate with a lax young cynic he met with somewhere 
about there — son of some landowner up that way — and who 
has a mother afflicted with blindness. My father addressed 
himself to the gentleman point-blank, and there was quite 
a disturbance. It was very foolish of my father, I must say, 
to intrude his conversation upon a stranger when the 
probabilities were so obvious that it would be useless. But 
whatever he thinks to be his duty, that he'll do, in season 
or out of season; and, of course, he makes many enemies, 
not only among the absolutely vicious, but among the easy- 
going, who hate being bothered. He says he glories in what 
happened, and that good maybe done indirectly; but I wish 
he would not wear himself out now he is getting old, and 
would leave such pigs to their wallowing.' 

Tess's look had grown hard and worn, and her ripe 
mouth tragical; but she no longer showed any tremulous- 
ness. Clare's revived thoughts of his father prevented his 
noticing her particularly; and so they went on down the 
white row of liquid rectangles till they had finished and 
drained them off, when the other maids returned, and took 
their pails, and Deb came to scald out the leads for the new 
milk. As Tess withdrew to go afield to the cows he said to 
her softly — 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'And my question, Tessy?' 

'O no — no!' replied she with grave hopelessness, as one 
who had heard anew the turmoil of her own past in the al- 
lusion to Alec d'Urberville. 'It CAN'T be!' 

She went out towards the mead, joining the other milk- 
maids with a bound, as if trying to make the open air drive 
away her sad constraint. All the girls drew onward to the 
spot where the cows were grazing in the farther mead, the 
bevy advancing with the bold grace of wild animals — the 
reckless, unchastened motion of women accustomed to un- 
limited space — in which they abandoned themselves to the 
air as a swimmer to the wave. It seemed natural enough to 
him now that Tess was again in sight to choose a mate from 
unconstrained Nature, and not from the abodes of Art. 



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XXVIII 



Her refusal, though unexpected, did not permanently 
daunt Clare. His experience of women was great enough 
for him to be aware that the negative often meant nothing 
more than the preface to the affirmative; and it was little 
enough for him not to know that in the manner of the pres- 
ent negative there lay a great exception to the dairyings of 
coyness. That she had already permitted him to make love 
to her he read as an additional assurance, not fully trowing 
that in the fields and pastures to 'sigh gratis' is by no means 
deemed waste; love-making being here more often accepted 
inconsiderately and for its own sweet sake than in the cark- 
ing, anxious homes of the ambitious, where a girl's craving 
for an establishment paralyzes her healthy thought of a pas- 
sion as an end. 

'Tess, why did you say 'no' in such a positive way?' he 
asked her in the course of a few days. 

She started. 

'Don't ask me. I told you why — partly. I am not good 
enough — not worthy enough.' 

'How? Not fine lady enough?' 

'Yes — something like that,' murmured she. 'Your friends 
would scorn me.' 

'Indeed, you mistake them — my father and mother. As 
for my brothers, I don't care — ' He clasped his fingers behind 



256 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



her back to keep her from slipping away. 'Now — you did not 
mean it, sweet? — I am sure you did not! You have made me 
so restless that I cannot read, or play, or do anything. I am 
in no hurry, Tess, but I want to know — to hear from your 
own warm lips — that you will some day be mine — any time 
you may choose; but some day?' 

She could only shake her head and look away from him. 

Clare regarded her attentively, conned the characters 
of her face as if they had been hieroglyphics. The denial 
seemed real. 

'Then I ought not to hold you in this way — ought I? I 
have no right to you — no right to seek out where you are, or 
walk with you! Honestly, Tess, do you love any other man?' 

'How can you ask?' she said, with continued self-sup- 
pression. 

'I almost know that you do not. But then, why do you 
repulse me?' 

'I don't repulse you. I like you to — tell me you love me; 
and you may always tell me so as you go about with me — 
and never offend me.' 

'But you will not accept me as a husband?' 

'Ah — that's different — it is for your good, indeed, my 
dearest! O, believe me, it is only for your sake! I don't like 
to give myself the great happiness o' promising to be yours 
in that way — because — because I am SURE I ought not to 
do it.' 

'But you will make me happy!' 

Ah — you think so, but you don't know!' 

At such times as this, apprehending the grounds of her 



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refusal to be her modest sense of incompetence in matters 
social and polite, he would say that she was wonderful- 
ly well-informed and versatile — which was certainly true, 
her natural quickness and her admiration for him having 
led her to pick up his vocabulary, his accent, and fragments 
of his knowledge, to a surprising extent. After these tender 
contests and her victory she would go away by herself un- 
der the remotest cow, if at milking-time, or into the sedge 
or into her room, if at a leisure interval, and mourn silently, 
not a minute after an apparently phlegmatic negative. 

The struggle was so fearful; her own heart was so strong- 
ly on the side of his — two ardent hearts against one poor 
little conscience — that she tried to fortify her resolution by 
every means in her power. She had come to Talbothays with 
a made-up mind. On no account could she agree to a step 
which might afterwards cause bitter rueing to her husband 
for his blindness in wedding her. And she held that what 
her conscience had decided for her when her mind was un- 
biassed ought not to be overruled now. 

'Why don't somebody tell him all about me?' she said. 'It 
was only forty miles off — why hasn't it reached here? Some- 
body must know!' 

Yet nobody seemed to know; nobody told him. 

For two or three days no more was said. She guessed 
from the sad countenances of her chamber companions 
that they regarded her not only as the favourite, but as the 
chosen; but they could see for themselves that she did not 
put herself in his way. 

Tess had never before known a time in which the thread 



258 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



of her life was so distinctly twisted of two strands, posi- 
tive pleasure and positive pain. At the next cheese-making 
the pair were again left alone together. The dairyman him- 
self had been lending a hand; but Mr Crick, as well as his 
wife, seemed latterly to have acquired a suspicion of mutual 
interest between these two; though they walked so circum- 
spectly that suspicion was but of the faintest. Anyhow, the 
dairyman left them to themselves. 

They were breaking up the masses of curd before put- 
ting them into the vats. The operation resembled the act of 
crumbling bread on a large scale; and amid the immacu- 
late whiteness of the curds Tess Durbeyfield's hands showed 
themselves of the pinkness of the rose. Angel, who was fill- 
ing the vats with his handful, suddenly ceased, and laid his 
hands flat upon hers. Her sleeves were rolled far above the 
elbow, and bending lower he kissed the inside vein of her 
soft arm. 

Although the early September weather was sultry, her 
arm, from her dabbling in the curds, was as cold and damp 
to his mouth as a new-gathered mushroom, and tasted of 
the whey. But she was such a sheaf of susceptibilities that her 
pulse was accelerated by the touch, her blood driven to her 
finder-ends, and the cool arms flushed hot. Then, as though 
her heart had said, 'Is coyness longer necessary? Truth is 
truth between man and woman, as between man and man,' 
she lifted her eyes and they beamed devotedly into his, as 
her lip rose in a tender half-smile. 

'Do you know why I did that, Tess?' he said. 

'Because you love me very much!' 



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'Yes, and as a preliminary to a new entreaty.' 

'Not AGAIN!' 

She looked a sudden fear that her resistance might break 
down under her own desire. 

'O, Tessy!' he went on, 'I CANNOT think why you are 
so tantalizing. Why do you disappoint me so? You seem al- 
most like a coquette, upon my life you do — a coquette of the 
first urban water! They blow hot and blow cold, just as you 
do, and it is the very last sort of thing to expect to find in a 
retreat like Talbothays. ... And yet, dearest,' he quickly add- 
ed, observing now the remark had cut her, 'I know you to 
be the most honest, spotless creature that ever lived. So how 
can I suppose you a flirt? Tess, why don't you like the idea of 
being my wife, if you love me as you seem to do?' 

'I have never said I don't like the idea, and I never could 
say it; because — it isn't true!' 

The stress now getting beyond endurance, her lip quiv- 
ered, and she was obliged to go away. Clare was so pained 
and perplexed that he ran after and caught her in the pas- 
sage. 

'Tell me, tell me!' he said, passionately clasping her, in 
forgetfulness of his curdy hands: 'do tell me that you won't 
belong to anybody but me!' 

'I will, I will tell you!' she exclaimed. And I will give you 
a complete answer, if you will let me go now. I will tell you 
my experiences — all about myself — all!' 

'Your experiences, dear; yes, certainly; any number.' He 
expressed assent in loving satire, looking into her face. 'My 
Tess, no doubt, almost as many experiences as that wild 



260 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



convolvulus out there on the garden hedge, that opened it- 
self this morning for the first time. Tell me anything, but 
don't use that wretched expression any more about not be- 
ing worthy of me.' 

'I will try — not! And I'll give you my reasons to-mor- 
row — next week.' 

'Say on Sunday?' 

'Yes, on Sunday.' 

At last she got away, and did not stop in her retreat till 
she was in the thicket of pollard willows at the lower side 
of the barton, where she could be quite unseen. Here Tess 
flung herself down upon the rustling undergrowth of spear- 
grass, as upon a bed, and remained crouching in palpitating 
misery broken by momentary shoots of joy, which her fears 
about the ending could not altogether suppress. 

In reality, she was drifting into acquiescence. Every 
see-saw of her breath, every wave of her blood, every pulse 
singing in her ears, was a voice that joined with nature in 
revolt against her scrupulousness. Reckless, inconsiderate 
acceptance of him; to close with him at the altar, revealing 
nothing, and chancing discovery; to snatch ripe pleasure 
before the iron teeth of pain could have time to shut upon 
her: that was what love counselled; and in almost a terror of 
ecstasy Tess divined that, despite her many months of lone- 
ly self-chastisement, wrestlings, communings, schemes to 
lead a future of austere isolation, love's counsel would pre- 
vail. 

The afternoon advanced, and still she remained among 
the willows. She heard the rattle of taking down the pails 



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from the forked stands; the 'waow-waow!' which accompa- 
nied the getting together of the cows. But she did not go to 
the milking. They would see her agitation; and the dairyman, 
thinking the cause to be love alone, would good-naturedly 
tease her; and that harassment could not be borne. 

Her lover must have guessed her overwrought state, and 
invented some excuse for her non-appearance, for no inqui- 
ries were made or calls given. At half-past six the sun settled 
down upon the levels with the aspect of a great forge in the 
heavens; and presently a monstrous pumpkin-like moon 
arose on the other hand. The pollard willows, tortured 
out of their natural shape by incessant choppings, became 
spiny-haired monsters as they stood up against it. She went 
in and upstairs without a light. 

It was now Wednesday. Thursday came, and Angel 
looked thoughtfully at her from a distance, but intruded in 
no way upon her. The indoor milkmaids, Marian and the 
rest, seemed to guess that something definite was afoot, for 
they did not force any remarks upon her in the bedchamber. 
Friday passed; Saturday. To-morrow was the day. 

'I shall give way — I shall say yes — I shall let myself marry 
him — I cannot help it!' she jealously panted, with her hot 
face to the pillow that night, on hearing one of the other 
girls sigh his name in her sleep. 'I can't bear to let anybody 
have him but me! Yet it is a wrong to him, and may kill him 
when he knows! O my heart — O — O — OP 



261 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXIX 



'Now, who mid ye think I've heard news o' this morning?' 
said Dairyman Crick, as he sat down to breakfast next day, 
with a riddling gaze round upon the munching men and 
maids. 'Now, just who mid ye think?' 

One guessed, and another guessed. Mrs Crick did not 
guess, because she knew already. 

'Well,' said the dairyman, "tis that slack-twisted 'hore's- 
bird of a feller, Jack Dollop. He's lately got married to a 
widow-woman.' 

'Not Jack Dollop? A villain — to think o' that!' said a 
milker. 

The name entered quickly into Tess Durbeyfield's con- 
sciousness, for it was the name of the lover who had wronged 
his sweetheart, and had afterwards been so roughly used by 
the young woman's mother in the butter-churn. 

And had he married the valiant matron's daughter, as he 
promised?' asked Angel Clare absently, as he turned over 
the newspaper he was reading at the little table to which he 
was always banished by Mrs Crick, in her sense of his gen- 
tility. 

'Not he, sir. Never meant to,' replied the dairyman. As I 
say, 'tis a widow-woman, and she had money, it seems — fifty 
poun' a year or so; and that was all he was after. They were 
married in a great hurry; and then she told him that by mar- 



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263 



rying she had lost her fifty poun' a year. Just fancy the state 
o' my gentleman's mind at that news! Never such a cat-and- 
dog life as they've been leading ever since! Serves him well 
beright. But onluckily the poor woman gets the worst o't.' 

'Well, the silly body should have told en sooner that the 
ghost of her first man would trouble him,' said Mrs Crick. 

'Ay, ay' responded the dairyman indecisively. 'Still, you 
can see exactly how 'twas. She wanted a home, and didn't 
like to run the risk of losing him. Don't ye think that was 
something like it, maidens?' 

He glanced towards the row of girls. 

'She ought to ha' told him just before they went to church, 
when he could hardly have backed out,' exclaimed Marian. 

'Yes, she ought,' agreed Izz. 

'She must have seen what he was after, and should ha' re- 
fused him,' cried Retty spasmodically. 

'And what do you say, my dear?' asked the dairyman of 
Tess. 

'I think she ought — to have told him the true state of 
things — or else refused him — I don't know,' replied Tess, 
the bread-and-butter choking her. 

'Be cust if I'd have done either o't,' said Beck Knibbs, a 
married helper from one of the cottages. All's fair in love 
and war. I'd ha' married en just as she did, and if he'd said 
two words to me about not telling him beforehand anything 
whatsomdever about my first chap that I hadn't chose to tell, 
I'd ha' knocked him down wi' the rolling-pin — a scram lit- 
tle feller like he! Any woman could do it.' 

The laughter which followed this sally was supplemented 



264 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



only by a sorry smile, for form's sake, from Tess. What was 
comedy to them was tragedy to her; and she could hard- 
ly bear their mirth. She soon rose from table, and, with an 
impression that Clare would soon follow her, went along a 
little wriggling path, now stepping to one side of the irri- 
gating channels, and now to the other, till she stood by the 
main stream of the Var. Men had been cutting the water- 
weeds higher up the river, and masses of them were floating 
past her — moving islands of green crow-foot, whereon she 
might almost have ridden; long locks of which weed had 
lodged against the piles driven to keep the cows from cross- 
ing. 

Yes, there was the pain of it. This question of a woman 
telling her story — the heaviest of crosses to herself — seemed 
but amusement to others. It was as if people should laugh at 
martyrdom. 

'Tessy!' came from behind her, and Clare sprang across 
the gully, alighting beside her feet. 'My wife — soon!' 

'No, no; I cannot. For your sake, O Mr Clare; for your 
sake, I say no!' 

'Tess!' 

'Still I say no!' she repeated. 

Not expecting this, he had put his arm lightly round her 
waist the moment after speaking, beneath her hanging tail 
of hair. (The younger dairymaids, including Tess, break- 
fasted with their hair loose on Sunday mornings before 
building it up extra high for attending church, a style they 
could not adopt when milking with their heads against the 
cows.) If she had said 'Yes' instead of 'No' he would have 



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265 



kissed her; it had evidently been his intention; but her de- 
termined negative deterred his scrupulous heart. Their 
condition of domiciliary comradeship put her, as the wom- 
an, to such disadvantage by its enforced intercourse, that he 
felt it unfair to her to exercise any pressure of blandishment 
which he might have honestly employed had she been better 
able to avoid him. He released her momentarily-imprisoned 
waist, and withheld the kiss. 

It all turned on that release. What had given her strength 
to refuse him this time was solely the tale of the widow told 
by the dairyman; and that would have been overcome in 
another moment. But Angel said no more; his face was per- 
plexed; he went away. 

Day after day they met — somewhat less constantly than 
before; and thus two or three weeks went by. The end of Sep- 
tember drew near, and she could see in his eye that he might 
ask her again. 

His plan of procedure was different now — as though he 
had made up his mind that her negatives were, after all, only 
coyness and youth startled by the novelty of the proposal. 
The fitful evasiveness of her manner when the subject was 
under discussion countenanced the idea. So he played a 
more coaxing game; and while never going beyond words, 
or attempting the renewal of caresses, he did his utmost 
orally. 

In this way Clare persistently wooed her in undertones 
like that of the purling milk — at the cow's side, at skimmings, 
at butter-makings, at cheese-makings, among broody poul- 
try, and among farrowing pigs — as no milkmaid was ever 



266 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



wooed before by such a man. 

Tess knew that she must break down. Neither a religious 
sense of a certain moral validity in the previous union nor 
a conscientious wish for candour could hold out against it 
much longer. She loved him so passionately, and he was so 
godlike in her eyes; and being, though untrained, instinc- 
tively refined, her nature cried for his tutelary guidance. And 
thus, though Tess kept repeating to herself, 'I can never be 
his wife,' the words were vain. A proof of her weakness lay 
in the very utterance of what calm strength would not have 
taken the trouble to formulate. Every sound of his voice be- 
ginning on the old subject stirred her with a terrifying bliss, 
and she coveted the recantation she feared. 

His manner was — what man's is not? — so much that of 
one who would love and cherish and defend her under any 
conditions, changes, charges, or revelations, that her gloom 
lessened as she basked in it. The season meanwhile was 
drawing onward to the equinox, and though it was still fine, 
the days were much shorter. The dairy had again worked by 
morning candlelight for a long time; and a fresh renewal of 
Clare's pleading occurred one morning between three and 
four. 

She had run up in her bedgown to his door to call him as 
usual; then had gone back to dress and call the others; and 
in ten minutes was walking to the head of the stairs with the 
candle in her hand. At the same moment he came down his 
steps from above in his shirt-sleeves and put his arm across 
the stairway. 

'Now, Miss Flirt, before you go down,' he said peremp- 



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267 



torily. 'It is a fortnight since I spoke, and this won't do any 
longer. You MUST tell me what you mean, or I shall have to 
leave this house. My door was ajar just now, and I saw you. 
For your own safety I must go. You don't know. Well? Is it 
to be yes at last?' 

'I am only just up, Mr Clare, and it is too early to take me 
to task!' she pouted. 'You need not call me Flirt. 'Tis cruel 
and untrue. Wait till by and by. Please wait till by and by! I 
will really think seriously about it between now and then. 
Let me go downstairs!' 

She looked a little like what he said she was as, holding 
the candle sideways, she tried to smile away the seriousness 
of her words. 

'Call me Angel, then, and not Mr Clare.' 

'Angel.' 

Angel dearest — why not?' 

"Twould mean that I agree, wouldn't it?' 

'It would only mean that you love me, even if you cannot 
marry me; and you were so good as to own that long ago.' 

'Very well, then, Angel dearest', if I MUST,' she mur- 
mured, looking at her candle, a roguish curl coming upon 
her mouth, notwithstanding her suspense. 

Clare had resolved never to kiss her until he had ob- 
tained her promise; but somehow, as Tess stood there in her 
prettily tucked-up milking gown, her hair carelessly heaped 
upon her head till there should be leisure to arrange it when 
skimming and milking were done, he broke his resolve, and 
brought his lips to her cheek for one moment. She passed 
downstairs very quickly, never looking back at him or say- 



268 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ing another word. The other maids were already down, and 
the subject was not pursued. Except Marian, they all looked 
wistfully and suspiciously at the pair, in the sad yellow rays 
which the morning candles emitted in contrast with the 
first cold signals of the dawn without. 

When skimming was done — which, as the milk dimin- 
ished with the approach of autumn, was a lessening process 
day by day — Retty and the rest went out. The lovers followed 
them. 

'Our tremulous lives are so different from theirs, are 
they not?' he musingly observed to her, as he regarded the 
three figures tripping before him through the frigid pallor 
of opening day. 

'Not so very different, I think,' she said. 

'Why do you think that?' 

'There are very few women's lives that arenot — tremulous,' 
Tess replied, pausing over the new word as if it impressed 
her. 'There's more in those three than you think.' 

'What is in them?' 

Almost either of 'em,' she began, 'would make — perhaps 
would make — a properer wife than I. And perhaps they love 
you as well as I — almost.' 

'O, Tessy!' 

There were signs that it was an exquisite relief to her to 
hear the impatient exclamation, though she had resolved 
so intrepidly to let generosity make one bid against herself. 
That was now done, and she had not the power to attempt 
self-immolation a second time then. They were joined by a 
milker from one of the cottages, and no more was said on 



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269 



that which concerned them so deeply. But Tess knew that 
this day would decide it. 

In the afternoon several of the dairyman's household 
and assistants went down to the meads as usual, a long way 
from the dairy, where many of the cows were milked with- 
out being driven home. The supply was getting less as the 
animals advanced in calf, and the supernumerary milkers 
of the lush green season had been dismissed. 

The work progressed leisurely. Each pailful was poured 
into tall cans that stood in a large spring-waggon which had 
been brought upon the scene; and when they were milked, 
the cows trailed away. Dairyman Crick, who was there with 
the rest, his wrapper gleaming miraculously white against a 
leaden evening sky, suddenly looked at his heavy watch. 

'Why, 'tis later than I thought,' he said. 'Begad! We shan't 
be soon enough with this milk at the station, if we don't 
mind. There's no time to-day to take it home and mix it 
with the bulk afore sending off. It must go to station straight 
from here. Who'll drive it across?' 

Mr Clare volunteered to do so, though it was none of 
his business, asking Tess to accompany him. The evening, 
though sunless, had been warm and muggy for the season, 
and Tess had come out with her milking-hood only, naked- 
armed and jacketless; certainly not dressed for a drive. She 
therefore replied by glancing over her scant habiliments; but 
Clare gently urged her. She assented by relinquishing her 
pail and stool to the dairyman to take home, and mounted 
the spring-waggon beside Clare. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXX 



In the diminishing daylight they went along the lev- 
el roadway through the meads, which stretched away into 
gray miles, and were backed in the extreme edge of dis- 
tance by the swarthy and abrupt slopes of Egdon Heath. On 
its summit stood clumps and stretches of fir-trees, whose 
notched tips appeared like battlemented towers crowning 
black- fronted castles of enchantment. 

They were so absorbed in the sense of being close to each 
other that they did not begin talking for a long while, the 
silence being broken only by the clucking of the milk in the 
tall cans behind them. The lane they followed was so sol- 
itary that the hazel nuts had remained on the boughs till 
they slipped from their shells, and the blackberries hung in 
heavy clusters. Every now and then Angel would fling the 
lash of his whip round one of these, pluck it off, and give it 
to his companion. 

The dull sky soon began to tell its meaning by sending 
down herald-drops of rain, and the stagnant air of the day 
changed into a fitful breeze which played about their faces. 
The quick-silvery glaze on the rivers and pools vanished; 
from broad mirrors of light they changed to lustreless sheets 
of lead, with a surface like a rasp. But that spectacle did not 
affect her preoccupation. Her countenance, a natural car- 
nation slightly embrowned by the season, had deepened its 



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tinge with the beating of the rain-drops; and her hair, which 
the pressure of the cows' flanks had, as usual, caused to tum- 
ble down from its fastenings and stray beyond the curtain 
of her calico bonnet, was made clammy by the moisture, till 
it hardly was better than seaweed. 

'I ought not to have come, I suppose,' she murmured, 
looking at the sky. 

'I am sorry for the rain,' said he. 'But how glad I am to 
have you here!' 

Remote Egdon disappeared by degree behind the liq- 
uid gauze. The evening grew darker, and the roads being 
crossed by gates, it was not safe to drive faster than at a 
walking pace. The air was rather chill. 

'I am so afraid you will get cold, with nothing upon your 
arms and shoulders,' he said. 'Creep close to me, and per- 
haps the drizzle won't hurt you much. I should be sorrier 
still if I did not think that the rain might be helping me.' 

She imperceptibly crept closer, and he wrapped round 
them both a large piece of sail-cloth, which was sometimes 
used to keep the sun off the milk-cans. Tess held it from 
slipping off him as well as herself, Clare's hands being oc- 
cupied. 

'Now we are all right again. Ah — no we are not! It runs 
down into my neck a little, and it must still more into yours. 
That's better. Your arms are like wet marble, Tess. Wipe 
them in the cloth. Now, if you stay quiet, you will not get 
another drop. Well, dear — about that question of mine — 
that long-standing question?' 

The only reply that he could hear for a little while was the 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



smack of the horse's hoofs on the moistening road, and the 
cluck of the milk in the cans behind them. 

'Do you remember what you said?' 

'I do,' she replied. 

'Before we get home, mind.' 

'I'll try' 

He said no more then. As they drove on, the fragment of 
an old manor house of Caroline date rose against the sky, 
and was in due course passed and left behind. 

'That,' he observed, to entertain her, 'is an interesting old 
place — one of the several seats which belonged to an ancient 
Norman family formerly of great influence in this county, 
the d'Urbervilles. I never pass one of their residences with- 
out thinking of them. There is something very sad in the 
extinction of a family of renown, even if it was fierce, domi- 
neering, feudal renown.' 

'Yes,' said Tess. 

They crept along towards a point in the expanse of shade 
just at hand at which a feeble light was beginning to assert 
its presence, a spot where, by day, a fitful white streak of 
steam at intervals upon the dark green background denot- 
ed intermittent moments of contact between their secluded 
world and modern life. Modern life stretched out its steam 
feeler to this point three or four times a day, touched the na- 
tive existences, and quickly withdrew its feeler again, as if 
what it touched had been uncongenial. 

They reached the feeble light, which came from the 
smoky lamp of a little railway station; a poor enough terres- 
trial star, yet in one sense of more importance to Talbothays 



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Dairy and mankind than the celestial ones to which it 
stood in such humiliating contrast. The cans of new milk 
were unladen in the rain, Tess getting a little shelter from a 
neighbouring holly tree. 

Then there was the hissing of a train, which drew up al- 
most silently upon the wet rails, and the milk was rapidly 
swung can by can into the truck. The light of the engine 
flashed for a second upon Tess Durbeyfield's figure, motion- 
less under the great holly tree. No object could have looked 
more foreign to the gleaming cranks and wheels than this 
unsophisticated girl, with the round bare arms, the rainy 
face and hair, the suspended attitude of a friendly leopard at 
pause, the print gown of no date or fashion, and the cotton 
bonnet drooping on her brow. 

She mounted again beside her lover, with a mute obe- 
dience characteristic of impassioned natures at times, and 
when they had wrapped themselves up over head and ears 
in the sailcloth again, they plunged back into the now thick 
night. Tess was so receptive that the few minutes of contact 
with the whirl of material progress lingered in her thought. 

'Londoners will drink it at their breakfasts to-morrow, 
won't they?' she asked. 'Strange people that we have never 
seen.' 

'Yes — I suppose they will. Though not as we send it. 
When its strength has been lowered, so that it may not get 
up into their heads.' 

'Noble men and noble women, ambassadors and centu- 
rions, ladies and tradeswomen, and babies who have never 
seen a cow.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'Well, yes; perhaps; particularly centurions.' 

'Who don't know anything of us, and where it comes 
from; or think how we two drove miles across the moor to- 
night in the rain that it might reach 'em in time?' 

'We did not drive entirely on account of these precious 
Londoners; we drove a little on our own — on account of that 
anxious matter which you will, I am sure, set at rest, dear 
Tess. Now, permit me to put it in this way. You belong to me 
already, you know; your heart, I mean. Does it not?' 

'You know as well as I. O yes — yes!' 

'Then, if your heart does, why not your hand?' 

'My only reason was on account of you — on account of a 
question. I have something to tell you — ' 

'But suppose it to be entirely for my happiness, and my 
worldly convenience also?' 

'O yes; if it is for your happiness and worldly conve- 
nience. But my life before I came here — I want — ' 

'Well, it is for my convenience as well as my happiness. If 
I have a very large farm, either English or colonial, you will 
be invaluable as a wife to me; better than a woman out of 
the largest mansion in the country. So please — please, dear 
Tessy, disabuse your mind of the feeling that you will stand 
in my way' 

'But my history. I want you to know it — you must let me 
tell you — you will not like me so well!' 

'Tell it if you wish to, dearest. This precious history then. 
Yes, I was born at so and so, Anno Domini — ' 

'I was born at Marlott,' she said, catching at his words 
as a help, lightly as they were spoken. 'And I grew up there. 



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And I was in the Sixth Standard when I left school, and they 
said I had great aptness, and should make a good teacher, so 
it was settled that I should be one. But there was trouble in 
my family; father was not very industrious, and he drank a 
little.' 

'Yes, yes. Poor child! Nothing new.' He pressed her more 
closely to his side. 

'And then — there is something very unusual about it — 
about me. I — I was — ' 

Tess's breath quickened. 

'Yes, dearest. Never mind.' 

'I — I — am not a Durbeyfield, but a d'Urberville — a de- 
scendant of the same family as those that owned the old 
house we passed. And — we are all gone to nothing!' 

A d'Urberville! — Indeed! And is that all the trouble, 
dear Tess?' 

'Yes,' she answered faintly. 

'Well — why should I love you less after knowing this?' 

'I was told by the dairyman that you hated old families.' 

He laughed. 

'Well, it is true, in one sense. I do hate the aristocrat- 
ic principle of blood before everything, and do think that 
as reasoners the only pedigrees we ought to respect are 
those spiritual ones of the wise and virtuous, without re- 
gard to corporal paternity. But I am extremely interested in 
this news — you can have no idea how interested I am! Are 
you not interested yourself in being one of that well-known 
line?' 

'No. I have thought it sad — especially since coming here, 



2/6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



and knowing that many of the hills and fields I see once 
belonged to my father's people. But other hills and field be- 
longed to Retty's people, and perhaps others to Marian's, so 
that I don't value it particularly.' 

'Yes — it is surprising how many of the present tillers of 
the soil were once owners of it, and I sometimes wonder that 
a certain school of politicians don't make capital of the cir- 
cumstance; but they don't seem to know it... I wonder that 
I did not see the resemblance of your name to d'Urberville, 
and trace the manifest corruption. And this was the cark- 
ing secret!' 

She had not told. At the last moment her courage had 
failed her; she feared his blame for not telling him sooner; 
and her instinct of self-preservation was stronger than her 
candour. 

'Of course,' continued the unwitting Clare, 'I should have 
been glad to know you to be descended exclusively from the 
long-suffering, dumb, unrecorded rank and file of the Eng- 
lish nation, and not from the self-seeking few who made 
themselves powerful at the expense of the rest. But I am 
corrupted away from that by my affection for you, Tess (he 
laughed as he spoke), and made selfish likewise. For your 
own sake I rejoice in your descent. Society is hopelessly 
snobbish, and this fact of your extraction may make an ap- 
preciable difference to its acceptance of you as my wife, after 
I have made you the well-read woman that I mean to make 
you. My mother too, poor soul, will think so much better 
of you on account of it. Tess, you must spell your name cor- 
rectly — d'Urberville — from this very day.' 



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'I like the other way rather best.' 

'But you MUST, dearest! Good heavens, why dozens of 
mushroom millionaires would jump at such a possession! 
By the bye, there's one of that kidney who has taken the 
name — where have I heard of him? — Up in the neighbour- 
hood of The Chase, I think. Why, he is the very man who 
had that rumpus with my father I told you of. What an odd 
coincidence!' 

'Angel, I think I would rather not take the name! It is un- 
lucky, perhaps!' 

She was agitated. 

'Now then, Mistress Teresa d'Urberville, I have you. Take 
my name, and so you will escape yours! The secret is out, so 
why should you any longer refuse me?' 

'If it is SURE to make you happy to have me as your wife, 
and you feel that you do wish to marry me, VERY, VERY 
much — ' 

'I do, dearest, of course!' 

'I mean, that it is only your wanting me very much, and 
being hardly able to keep alive without me, whatever my of- 
fences, that would make me feel I ought to say I will.' 

'You will — you do say it, I know! You will be mine for 
ever and ever.' 

He clasped her close and kissed her. 

'Yes!' 

She had no sooner said it than she burst into a dry hard 
sobbing, so violent that it seemed to rend her. Tess was not a 
hysterical girl by any means, and he was surprised. 

Why do you cry, dearest?' 



278 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



T can't tell — quite! — I am so glad to think — of being 
yours, and making you happy!' 

'But this does not seem very much like gladness, my Tes- 
sy!' 

'I mean — I cry because I have broken down in my vow! I 
said I would die unmarried!' 

'But, if you love me you would like me to be your hus- 
band?' 

'Yes, yes, yes! But O, I sometimes wish I had never been 
born!' 

'Now, my dear Tess, if I did not know that you are very 
much excited, and very inexperienced, I should say that re- 
mark was not very complimentary. How came you to wish 
that if you care for me? Do you care for me? I wish you 
would prove it in some way' 

'How can I prove it more than I have done?' she cried, in 
a distraction of tenderness. 'Will this prove it more?' 

She clasped his neck, and for the first time Clare learnt 
what an impassioned woman's kisses were like upon the lips 
of one whom she loved with all her heart and soul, as Tess 
loved him. 

'There — now do you believe?' she asked, flushed, and 
wiping her eyes. 

'Yes. I never really doubted — never, never!' 

So they drove on through the gloom, forming one bundle 
inside the sail-cloth, the horse going as he would, and the 
rain driving against them. She had consented. She might 
as well have agreed at first. The 'appetite for joy' which 
pervades all creation, that tremendous force which sways 



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humanity to its purpose, as the tide sways the helpless weed, 
was not to be controlled by vague lucubrations over the so- 
cial rubric. 

'I must write to my mother,' she said. 'You don't mind 
my doing that?' 

'Of course not, dear child. You are a child to me, Tess, 
not to know how very proper it is to write to your mother 
at such a time, and how wrong it would be in me to object. 
Where does she live?' 

'At the same place — Marlott. On the further side of 
Blackmoor Vale.' 

'Ah, then I HAVE seen you before this summer — ' 

'Yes; at that dance on the green; but you would not dance 
with me. O, I hope that is of no ill-omen for us now!' 



280 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXXI 



Tess wrote a most touching and urgent letter to her moth- 
er the very next day, and by the end of the week a response 
to her communication arrived in Joan Durbeyfield's wan- 
dering last-century hand. 

DEAR TESS — 

J write these few lines Hoping they will find you well, as 
they leave me at Present, thank God for it. Dear Tess, we 
are all glad to Hear that you are going really to be married 
soon. But with respect to your question, Tess,] say between 
ourselves, quite private but very strong, that on no account do 
you say a word of your Bygone Trouble to him. J did not tell 
everything to your Father, he being so Proud on account of 
his Respectability, which, perhaps, your Intended is the same. 
Many a woman — some of the Highest in the Land — have had 
a Trouble in their time; and why should you Trumpet yours 
when others don't Trumpet theirs? No girl would be such a 
Fool, specially as it is so long ago, and not your Fault at all. 
J shall answer the same if you ask me fifty times. Besides, 
you must bear in mind that, knowing it to be your Childish 
Nature to tell all that's in your heart — so simple! — / made you 
promise me never to let it out by Word or Deed, having your 
Welfare in my Mind; and you most solemnly did promise it 



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going from this Door. J have not named either that Question 
or your coming marriage to your Father, as he would blab it 
everywhere, poor Simple Man. 

Dear Tess, keep up your Spirits, and we mean to send you a 
Hogshead of Cyder for you Wedding, knowing there is not 
much in your parts, and thin Sour Stuff what there is. So no 
more at present, and with kind love to your Young Man. — 
From your affectte. Mother, 

J. DURBEYFIELD 

'O mother, mother!' murmured Tess. 

She was recognizing how light was the touch of events 
the most oppressive upon Mrs Durbeyfield's elastic spirit. 
Her mother did not see life as Tess saw it. That haunting 
episode of bygone days was to her mother but a passing ac- 
cident. But perhaps her mother was right as to the course to 
be followed, whatever she might be in her reasons. Silence 
seemed, on the face of it, best for her adored one's happi- 
ness: silence it should be. 

Thus steadied by a command from the only person in the 
world who had any shadow of right to control her action, 
Tess grew calmer. The responsibility was shifted, and her 
heart was lighter than it had been for weeks. The days of de- 
clining autumn which followed her assent, beginning with 
the month of October, formed a season through which she 
lived in spiritual altitudes more nearly approaching ecstasy 
than any other period of her life. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



There was hardly a touch of earth in her love for Clare. 
To her sublime trustfulness he was all that goodness could 
be — knew all that a guide, philosopher, and friend should 
know. She thought every line in the contour of his person 
the perfection of masculine beauty, his soul the soul of a 
saint, his intellect that of a seer. The wisdom of her love for 
him, as love, sustained her dignity; she seemed to be wear- 
ing a crown. The compassion of his love for her, as she saw 
it, made her lift up her heart to him in devotion. He would 
sometimes catch her large, worshipful eyes, that had no bot- 
tom to them looking at him from their depths, as if she saw 
something immortal before her. 

She dismissed the past — trod upon it and put it out, as 
one treads on a coal that is smouldering and dangerous. 

She had not known that men could be so disinterested, 
chivalrous, protective, in their love for women as he. Angel 
Clare was far from all that she thought him in this respect; 
absurdly far, indeed; but he was, in truth, more spiritual 
than animal; he had himself well in hand, and was singu- 
larly free from grossness. Though not cold-natured, he was 
rather bright than hot — less Byronic than Shelleyan; could 
love desperately, but with a love more especially inclined to 
the imaginative and ethereal; it was a fastidious emotion 
which could jealously guard the loved one against his very 
self. This amazed and enraptured Tess, whose slight experi- 
ences had been so infelicitous till now; and in her reaction 
from indignation against the male sex she swerved to excess 
of honour for Clare. 

They unaffectedly sought each other's company; in her 



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283 



honest faith she did not disguise her desire to be with him. 
The sum of her instincts on this matter, if clearly stated, 
would have been that the elusive quality of her sex which 
attracts men in general might be distasteful to so perfect a 
man after an avowal of love, since it must in its very nature 
carry with it a suspicion of art. 

The country custom of unreserved comradeship out of 
doors during betrothal was the only custom she knew, and 
to her it had no strangeness; though it seemed oddly an- 
ticipative to Clare till he saw how normal a thing she, in 
common with all the other dairy-folk, regarded it. Thus, 
during this October month of wonderful afternoons they 
roved along the meads by creeping paths which followed the 
brinks of trickling tributary brooks, hopping across by little 
wooden bridges to the other side, and back again. They were 
never out of the sound of some purling weir, whose buzz ac- 
companied their own murmuring, while the beams of the 
sun, almost as horizontal as the mead itself, formed a pollen 
of radiance over the landscape. They saw tiny blue fogs in 
the shadows of trees and hedges, all the time that there was 
bright sunshine elsewhere. The sun was so near the ground, 
and the sward so flat, that the shadows of Clare and Tess 
would stretch a quarter of a mile ahead of them, like two 
long fingers pointing afar to where the green alluvial reach- 
es abutted against the sloping sides of the vale. 

Men were at work here and there — for it was the season 
for 'taking up' the meadows, or digging the little water- 
ways clear for the winter irrigation, and mending their 
banks where trodden down by the cows. The shovelfuls of 



2S4 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



loam, black as jet, brought there by the river when it was as 
wide as the whole valley, were an essence of soils, pounded 
champaigns of the past, steeped, refined, and subtilized to 
extraordinary richness, out of which came all the fertility of 
the mead, and of the cattle grazing there. 

Clare hardily kept his arm round her waist in sight of 
these watermen, with the air of a man who was accustomed 
to public dalliance, though actually as shy as she who, with 
lips parted and eyes askance on the labourers, wore the look 
of a wary animal the while. 

'You are not ashamed of owning me as yours before 
them!' she said gladly. 

'Ono!' 

'But if it should reach the ears of your friends at Em- 
minster that you are walking about like this with me, a 
milkmaid — ' 

'The most bewitching milkmaid ever seen.' 

'They might feel it a hurt to their dignity' 

'My dear girl — a d'Urberville hurt the dignity of a Clare! 
It is a grand card to play — that of your belonging to such a 
family, and I am reserving it for a grand effect when we are 
married, and have the proofs of your descent from Parson 
Tringham. Apart from that, my future is to be totally for- 
eign to my family — it will not affect even the surface of their 
lives. We shall leave this part of England — perhaps England 
itself — and what does it matter how people regard us here? 
You will like going, will you not?' 

She could answer no more than a bare affirmative, so 
great was the emotion aroused in her at the thought of go- 



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285 



ing through the world with him as his own familiar friend. 
Her feelings almost filled her ears like a babble of waves, and 
surged up to her eyes. She put her hand in his, and thus they 
went on, to a place where the reflected sun glared up from 
the river, under a bridge, with a molten-metallic glow that 
dazzled their eyes, though the sun itself was hidden by the 
bridge. They stood still, whereupon little furred and feath- 
ered heads popped up from the smooth surface of the water; 
but, finding that the disturbing presences had paused, and 
not passed by, they disappeared again. Upon this river-brink 
they lingered till the fog began to close round them — which 
was very early in the evening at this time of the year — set- 
tling on the lashes of her eyes, where it rested like crystals, 
and on his brows and hair. 

They walked later on Sundays, when it was quite dark. 
Some of the dairy-people, who were also out of doors on the 
first Sunday evening after their engagement, heard her im- 
pulsive speeches, ecstasized to fragments, though they were 
too far off to hear the words discoursed; noted the spasmod- 
ic catch in her remarks, broken into syllables by the leapings 
of her heart, as she walked leaning on his arm; her content- 
ed pauses, the occasional little laugh upon which her soul 
seemed to ride — the laugh of a woman in company with the 
man she loves and has won from all other women — unlike 
anything else in nature. They marked the buoyancy of her 
tread, like the skim of a bird which has not quite alighted. 

Her affection for him was now the breath and life of 
Tess's being; it enveloped her as a photosphere, irradiated 
her into forgetfulness of her past sorrows, keeping back 



286 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



the gloomy spectres that would persist in their attempts to 
touch her — doubt, fear, moodiness, care, shame. She knew 
that they were waiting like wolves just outside the circum- 
scribing light, but she had long spells of power to keep them 
in hungry subjection there. 

A spiritual forgetfulness co -existed with an intellectual 
remembrance. She walked in brightness, but she knew that 
in the background those shapes of darkness were always 
spread. They might be receding, or they might be approach- 
ing, one or the other, a little every day. 

One evening Tess and Clare were obliged to sit indoors 
keeping house, all the other occupants of the domicile being 
away. As they talked she looked thoughtfully up at him, and 
met his two appreciative eyes. 

'I am not worthy of you — no, I am not!' she burst out, 
jumping up from her low stool as though appalled at his 
homage, and the fulness of her own joy thereat. 

Clare, deeming the whole basis of her excitement to be 
that which was only the smaller part of it, said — 

'I won't have you speak like it, dear Tess! Distinction 
does not consist in the facile use of a contemptible set of 
conventions, but in being numbered among those who are 
true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good 
report — as you are, my Tess.' 

She struggled with the sob in her throat. How often had 
that string of excellences made her young heart ache in 
church of late years, and how strange that he should have 
cited them now. 

'Why didn't you stay and love me when I — was sixteen; 



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287 



living with my little sisters and brothers, and you danced 
on the green? O, why didn't you, why didn't you!' she said, 
impetuously clasping her hands. 

Angel began to comfort and reassure her, thinking to 
himself, truly enough, what a creature of moods she was, 
and how careful he would have to be of her when she de- 
pended for her happiness entirely on him. 

'Ah — why didn't I stay!' he said. 'That is just what I feel. 
If I had only known! But you must not be so bitter in your 
regret — why should you be?' 

With the woman's instinct to hide she diverged 
hastily — 

'I should have had four years more of your heart than I 
can ever have now. Then I should not have wasted my time 
as I have done — I should have had so much longer happi- 
ness!' 

It was no mature woman with a long dark vista of in- 
trigue behind her who was tormented thus, but a girl of 
simple life, not yet one-and twenty, who had been caught 
during her days of immaturity like a bird in a springe. To 
calm herself the more completely, she rose from her little 
stool and left the room, overturning the stool with her skirts 
as she went. 

He sat on by the cheerful firelight thrown from a bundle 
of green ash-sticks laid across the dogs; the sticks snapped 
pleasantly, and hissed out bubbles of sap from their ends. 
When she came back she was herself again. 

'Do you not think you are just a wee bit capricious, fit- 
ful, Tess?' he said, good-humouredly, as he spread a cushion 



288 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



for her on the stool, and seated himself in the settle beside 
her. 1 wanted to ask you something, and just then you ran 
away' 

'Yes, perhaps I am capricious,' she murmured. She sud- 
denly approached him, and put a hand upon each of his 
arms. 'No, Angel, I am not really so — by nature, I mean!' 
The more particularly to assure him that she was not, she 
placed herself close to him in the settle, and allowed her 
head to find a resting-place against Clare's shoulder. 'What 
did you want to ask me — I am sure I will answer it,' she con- 
tinued humbly. 

'Well, you love me, and have agreed to marry me, and 
hence there follows a thirdly, When shall the day be?" 

T like living like this.' 

'But I must think of starting in business on my own hook 
with the new year, or a little later. And before I get involved 
in the multifarious details of my new position, I should like 
to have secured my partner.' 

'But,' she timidly answered, 'to talk quite practically, 
wouldn't it be best not to marry till after all that? — Though 
I can't bear the thought o' your going away and leaving me 
here!' 

'Of course you cannot — and it is not best in this case. 
I want you to help me in many ways in making my start. 
When shall it be? Why not a fortnight from now?' 

'No,' she said, becoming grave: 1 have so many things to 
think of first.' 

'But—' 

He drew her gently nearer to him. 



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The reality of marriage was startling when it loomed so 
near. Before discussion of the question had proceeded fur- 
ther there walked round the corner of the settle into the full 
firelight of the apartment Mr Dairyman Crick, Mrs Crick, 
and two of the milkmaids. 

Tess sprang like an elastic ball from his side to her feet, 
while her face flushed and her eyes shone in the firelight. 

'I knew how it would be if I sat so close to him!' she cried, 
with vexation. 'I said to myself, they are sure to come and 
catch us! But I wasn't really sitting on his knee, though it 
might ha' seemed as if I was almost!' 

'Well — if so be you hadn't told us, I am sure we shouldn't 
ha' noticed that ye had been sitting anywhere at all in this 
light,' replied the dairyman. He continued to his wife, with 
the stolid mien of a man who understood nothing of the 
emotions relating to matrimony — 'Now, Christianer, that 
shows that folks should never fancy other folks be sup- 
posing things when they bain't. O no, I should never ha' 
thought a word of where she was a sitting to, if she hadn't 
told me — not I.' 

'We are going to be married soon,' said Clare, with im- 
provised phlegm. 

'Ah — and be ye! Well, I am truly glad to hear it, sir. I've 
thought you mid do such a thing for some time. She's too 
good for a dairymaid — I said so the very first day I zid 
her — and a prize for any man; and what's more, a wonder- 
ful woman for a gentleman -farmer's wife; he won't be at the 
mercy of his baily wi' her at his side.' 

Somehow Tess disappeared. She had been even more 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



struck with the look of the girls who followed Crick than 
abashed by Crick's blunt praise. 

After supper, when she reached her bedroom, they were 
all present. A light was burning, and each damsel was sit- 
ting up whitely in her bed, awaiting Tess, the whole like a 
row of avenging ghosts. 

But she saw in a few moments that there was no malice 
in their mood. They could scarcely feel as a loss what they 
had never expected to have. Their condition was objective, 
contemplative. 

'He's going to marry her!' murmured Retty, never taking 
eyes off Tess. 'How her face do show it!' 

'You BE going to marry him?' asked Marian. 

'Yes,' said Tess. 

'When?' 

'Some day.' 

They thought that this was evasiveness only. 

'YES — going to MARRY him — a gentleman!' repeated 
Izz Huett. 

And by a sort of fascination the three girls, one after an- 
other, crept out of theirbeds, and came and stood barefooted 
round Tess. Retty put her hands upon Tess's shoulders, as if 
to realize her friend's corporeality after such a miracle, and 
the other two laid their arms round her waist, all looking 
into her face. 

'How it do seem! Almost more than I can think of!' said 
Izz Huett. 

Marian kissed Tess. 'Yes,' she murmured as she with- 
drew her lips. 



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'Was that because of love for her, or because other lips 
have touched there by now?' continued Izz drily to Marian. 

'I wasn't thinking o' that,' said Marian simply. 'I was on'y 
feeling all the strangeness o't — that she is to be his wife, and 
nobody else. I don't say nay to it, nor either of us, because 
we did not think of it — only loved him. Still, nobody else is 
to marry 'n in the world — no fine lady, nobody in silks and 
satins; but she who do live like we.' 

'Are you sure you don't dislike me for it?' said Tess in a 
low voice. 

They hung about her in their white nightgowns before 
replying, as if they considered their answer might lie in her 
look. 

'I don't know — I don't know,' murmured Retty Priddle. 'I 
want to hate 'ee; but I cannot!' 

'That's how I feel,' echoed Izz and Marian. 'I can't hate 
her. Somehow she hinders me!' 

'He ought to marry one of you,' murmured Tess. 

'Why?' 

'You are all better than I.' 

We better than you?' said the girls in a low, slow whis- 
per. 'No, no, dear Tess!' 

'You are!' she contradicted impetuously. And suddenly 
tearing away from their clinging arms she burst into a hys- 
terical fit of tears, bowing herself on the chest of drawers 
and repeating incessantly, 'O yes, yes, yes!' 

Having once given way she could not stop her weeping. 

'He ought to have had one of you!' she cried. 'I think I 
ought to make him even now! You would be better for him 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



than — I don't know what I'm saying! O! O!' 

They went up to her and clasped her round, but still her 
sobs tore her. 

'Get some water,' said Marian, 'She's upset by us, poor 
thing, poor thing!' 

They gently led her back to the side of her bed, where 
they kissed her warmly. 

'You are best for'n,' said Marian. 'More ladylike, and a 
better scholar than we, especially since he had taught 'ee so 
much. But even you ought to be proud. You BE proud, I'm 
sure!' 

'Yes, I am,' she said; 'and I am ashamed at so breaking 
down.' 

When they were all in bed, and the light was out, Marian 
whispered across to her — 

'You will think of us when you be his wife, Tess, and of 
how we told 'ee that we loved him, and how we tried not to 
hate you, and did not hate you, and could not hate you, be- 
cause you were his choice, and we never hoped to be chose 
by him.' 

They were not aware that, at these words, salt, stinging 
tears trickled down upon Tess's pillow anew, and how she 
resolved, with a bursting heart, to tell all her history to An- 
gel Clare, despite her mother's command — to let him for 
whom she lived and breathed despise her if he would, and 
her mother regard her as a fool, rather then preserve a si- 
lence which might be deemed a treachery to him, and which 
somehow seemed a wrong to these. 



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XXXII 



This penitential mood kept her from naming the wed- 
ding-day. The beginning of November found its date still in 
abeyance, though he asked her at the most tempting times. 
But Tess's desire seemed to be for a perpetual betrothal in 
which everything should remain as it was then. 

The meads were changing now; but it was still warm 
enough in early afternoons before milking to idle there 
awhile, and the state of dairy- work at this time of year al- 
lowed a spare hour for idling. Looking over the damp sod 
in the direction of the sun, a glistening ripple of gossamer 
webs was visible to their eyes under the luminary, like the 
track of moonlight on the sea. Gnats, knowing nothing of 
their brief glorification, wandered across the shimmer of 
this pathway, irradiated as if they bore fire within them, 
then passed out of its line, and were quite extinct. In the 
presence of these things he would remind her that the date 
was still the question. 

Or he would ask her at night, when he accompanied her 
on some mission invented by Mrs Crick to give him the op- 
portunity. This was mostly a journey to the farmhouse on 
the slopes above the vale, to inquire how the advanced cows 
were getting on in the straw-barton to which they were 
relegated. For it was a time of the year that brought great 
changes to the world of kine. Batches of the animals were 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



sent away daily to this lying-in hospital, where they lived 
on straw till their calves were born, after which event, and 
as soon as the calf could walk, mother and offspring were 
driven back to the dairy. In the interval which elapsed be- 
fore the calves were sold there was, of course, little milking 
to be done, but as soon as the calf had been taken away the 
milkmaids would have to set to work as usual. 

Returning from one of these dark walks they reached a 
great gravel-cliff immediately over the levels, where they 
stood still and listened. The water was now high in the 
streams, squirting through the weirs, and tinkling under 
culverts; the smallest gullies were all full; there was no 
taking short cuts anywhere, and foot-passengers were com- 
pelled to follow the permanent ways. From the whole extent 
of the invisible vale came a multitudinous intonation; it 
forced upon their fancy that a great city lay below them, and 
that the murmur was the vociferation of its populace. 

'It seems like tens of thousands of them,' said Tess; 
'holding public-meetings in their market-places, arguing, 
preaching, quarrelling, sobbing, groaning, praying, and 
cursing.' 

Clare was not particularly heeding. 

'Did Crick speak to you to-day, dear, about his not want- 
ing much assistance during the winter months?' 

'No.' 

'The cows are going dry rapidly.' 

'Yes. Six or seven went to the straw-barton yesterday, and 
three the day before, making nearly twenty in the straw al- 
ready. Ah — is it that the farmer don't want my help for the 



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calving? O, I am not wanted here anymore! And I have tried 
so hard to — ' 

'Crick didn't exactly say that he would no longer require 
you. But, knowing what our relations were, he said in the 
most good-natured and respectful manner possible that 
he supposed on my leaving at Christmas I should take you 
with me, and on my asking what he would do without you 
he merely observed that, as a matter of fact, it was a time of 
year when he could do with a very little female help. I am 
afraid I was sinner enough to feel rather glad that he was in 
this way forcing your hand.' 

'I don't think you ought to have felt glad, Angel. Because 
'tis always mournful not to be wanted, even if at the same 
time 'tis convenient.' 

'Well, it is convenient — you have admitted that.' He put 
his finger upon her cheek. Ah!' he said. 

'What?' 

'I feel the red rising up at her having been caught! But 
why should I trifle so! We will not trifle — life is too seri- 
ous.' 

'It is. Perhaps I saw that before you did.' 

She was seeing it then. To decline to marry him after 
all — in obedience to her emotion of last night — and leave 
the dairy, meant to go to some strange place, not a dairy; for 
milkmaids were not in request now calving-time was com- 
ing on; to go to some arable farm where no divine being like 
Angel Clare was. She hated the thought, and she hated more 
the thought of going home. 

'So that, seriously, dearest Tess,' he continued, 'since you 



296 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



will probably have to leave at Christmas, it is in every way 
desirable and convenient that I should carry you off then as 
my property. Besides, if you were not the most uncalculat- 
ing girl in the world you would know that we could not go 
on like this for ever.' 

'I wish we could. That it would always be summer and 
autumn, and you always courting me, and always thinking 
as much of me as you have done through the past summer- 
time!' 

'I always shall.' 

'O, I know you will!' she cried, with a sudden fervour of 
faith in him. Angel, I will fix the day when I will become 
yours for always!' 

Thus at last it was arranged between them, during that 
dark walk home, amid the myriads of liquid voices on the 
right and left. 

When they reached the dairy Mr and Mrs Crick were 
promptly told — with injunctions of secrecy; for each of the 
lovers was desirous that the marriage should be kept as pri- 
vate as possible. The dairyman, though he had thought of 
dismissing her soon, now made a great concern about los- 
ing her. What should he do about his skimming? Who 
would make the ornamental butter-pats for the Anglebury 
and Sandbourne ladies? Mrs Crick congratulated Tess on 
the shilly-shallying having at last come to an end, and said 
that directly she set eyes on Tess she divined that she was to 
be the chosen one of somebody who was no common out- 
door man; Tess had looked so superior as she walked across 
the barton on that afternoon of her arrival; that she was of 



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a good family she could have sworn. In point of fact Mrs 
Crick did remember thinking that Tess was graceful and 
good-looking as she approached; but the superiority might 
have been a growth of the imagination aided by subsequent 
knowledge. 

Tess was now carried along upon the wings of the hours, 
without the sense of a will. The word had been given; the 
number of the day written down. Her naturally bright 
intelligence had begun to admit the fatalistic convic- 
tions common to field-folk and those who associate more 
extensively with natural phenomena than with their fel- 
low-creatures; and she accordingly drifted into that passive 
responsiveness to all things her lover suggested, character- 
istic of the frame of mind. 

But she wrote anew to her mother, ostensibly to notify 
the wedding-day; really to again implore her advice. It was 
a gentleman who had chosen her, which perhaps her mother 
had not sufficiently considered. A post-nuptial explanation, 
which might be accepted with a light heart by a rougher 
man, might not be received with the same feeling by him. 
But this communication brought no reply from Mrs Dur- 
beyfield. 

Despite Angel Clare's plausible representation to himself 
and to Tess of the practical need for their immediate mar- 
riage, there was in truth an element of precipitancy in the 
step, as became apparent at a later date. He loved her dearly, 
though perhaps rather ideally and fancifully than with the 
impassioned thoroughness of her feeling for him. He had en- 
tertained no notion, when doomed as he had thought to an 



298 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



unintellectual bucolic life, that such charms as he beheld in 
this idyllic creature would be found behind the scenes. Un- 
sophistication was a thing to talk of; but he had not known 
how it really struck one until he came here. Yet he was very 
far from seeing his future track clearly, and it might be a 
year or two before he would be able to consider himself fair- 
ly started in life. The secret lay in the tinge of recklessness 
imparted to his career and character by the sense that he 
had been made to miss his true destiny through the preju- 
dices of his family. 

'Don't you think 'twould have been better for us to wait 
till you were quite settled in your midland farm?' she once 
asked timidly. (A midland farm was the idea just then.) 

'To tell the truth, my Tess, I don't like you to be left any- 
where away from my protection and sympathy.' 

The reason was a good one, so far as it went. His influ- 
ence over her had been so marked that she had caught his 
manner and habits, his speech and phrases, his likings and 
his aversions. And to leave her in farmland would be to let 
her slip back again out of accord with him. He wished to 
have her under his charge for another reason. His parents 
had naturally desired to see her once at least before he car- 
ried her off to a distant settlement, English or colonial; and 
as no opinion of theirs was to be allowed to change his in- 
tention, he judged that a couple of months' life with him in 
lodgings whilst seeking for an advantageous opening would 
be of some social assistance to her at what she might feel to 
be a trying ordeal — her presentation to his mother at the 
Vicarage. 



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Next, he wished to see a little of the working of a flour- 
mill, having an idea that he might combine the use of one 
with corn-growing. The proprietor of a large old water-mill 
at Wellbridge — once the mill of an Abbey — had offered him 
the inspection of his time-honoured mode of procedure, 
and a hand in the operations for a few days, whenever he 
should choose to come. Clare paid a visit to the place, some 
few miles distant, one day at this time, to inquire particu- 
lars, and returned to Talbothays in the evening. She found 
him determined to spend a short time at the Wellbridge 
flour-mills. And what had determined him? Less the op- 
portunity of an insight into grinding and bolting than the 
casual fact that lodgings were to be obtained in that very 
farmhouse which, before its mutilation, had been the man- 
sion of a branch of the d'Urberville family. This was always 
how Clare settled practical questions; by a sentiment which 
had nothing to do with them. They decided to go immedi- 
ately after the wedding, and remain for a fortnight, instead 
of journeying to towns and inns. 

'Then we will start off to examine some farms on the 
other side of London that I have heard of,' he said, 'and by 
March or April we will pay a visit to my father and moth- 
er.' 

Questions of procedure such as these arose and passed, 
and the day, the incredible day, on which she was to become 
his, loomed large in the near future. The thirty-first of De- 
cember, New Year's Eve, was the date. His wife, she said to 
herself. Could it ever be? Their two selves together, noth- 
ing to divide them, every incident shared by them; why not? 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



And yet why? 

One Sunday morning Izz Huett returned from church, 
and spoke privately to Tess. 

'You was not called home this morning.' 

'What?' 

'It should ha' been the first time of asking to-day,' she 
answered, looking quietly at Tess. 'You meant to be married 
New Year's Eve, deary?' 

The other returned a quick affirmative. 

And there must be three times of asking. And now there 
be only two Sundays left between.' 

Tess felt her cheek paling; Izz was right; of course there 
must be three. Perhaps he had forgotten! If so, there must be 
a week's postponement, and that was unlucky. How could 
she remind her lover? She who had been so backward was 
suddenly fired with impatience and alarm lest she should 
lose her dear prize. 

A natural incident relieved her anxiety. Izz mentioned 
the omission of the banns to Mrs Crick, and Mrs Crick as- 
sumed a matron's privilege of speaking to Angel on the 
point. 

'Have ye forgot 'em, Mr Clare? The banns, I mean.' 

'No, I have not forgot 'em,' says Clare. 

As soon as he caught Tess alone he assured her: 

'Don't let them tease you about the banns. A licence will 
be quieter for us, and I have decided on a licence without 
consulting you. So if you go to church on Sunday morning 
you will not hear your own name, if you wished to.' 

'I didn't wish to hear it, dearest,' she said proudly. 



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But to know that things were in train was an immense 
relief to Tess notwithstanding, who had well-nigh feared 
that somebody would stand up and forbid the banns on the 
ground of her history. How events were favouring her! 

'I don't quite feel easy,' she said to herself. 'All this good 
fortune may be scourged out of me afterwards by a lot of 
ill. That's how Heaven mostly does. I wish I could have had 
common banns!' 

But everything went smoothly. She wondered whether he 
would like her to be married in her present best white frock, 
or if she ought to buy a new one. The question was set at rest 
by his forethought, disclosed by the arrival of some large 
packages addressed to her. Inside them she found a whole 
stock of clothing, from bonnet to shoes, including a per- 
fect morning costume, such as would well suit the simple 
wedding they planned. He entered the house shortly after 
the arrival of the packages, and heard her upstairs undo- 
ing them. 

A minute later she came down with a flush on her face 
and tears in her eyes. 

'How thoughtful you've been!' she murmured, her cheek 
upon his shoulder. 'Even to the gloves and handkerchief! 
My own love — how good, how kind!' 

'No, no, Tess; just an order to a tradeswoman in Lon- 
don — nothing more.' 

And to divert her from thinking too highly of him, he 
told her to go upstairs, and take her time, and see if it all fit- 
ted; and, if not, to get the village sempstress to make a few 
alterations. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She did return upstairs, and put on the gown. Alone, 
she stood for a moment before the glass looking at the ef- 
fect of her silk attire; and then there came into her head her 
mother's ballad of the mystic robe — 

That never would become that wife 
That had once done amiss, 

which Mrs Durbeyfield had used to sing to her as a child, 
so blithely and so archly, her foot on the cradle, which she 
rocked to the tune. Suppose this robe should betray her 
by changing colour, as her robe had betrayed Queen Gui- 
nevere. Since she had been at the dairy she had not once 
thought of the lines till now. 



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XXXIII 



Angel felt that he would like to spend a day with her 
before the wedding, somewhere away from the dairy, as a 
last jaunt in her company while there were yet mere lover 
and mistress; a romantic day, in circumstances that would 
never be repeated; with that other and greater day beaming 
close ahead of them. During the preceding week, therefore, 
he suggested making a few purchases in the nearest town, 
and they started together. 

Clare's life at the dairy had been that of a recluse in re- 
spect the world of his own class. For months he had never 
gone near a town, and, requiring no vehicle, had never kept 
one, hiring the dairyman's cob or gig if he rode or drove. 
They went in the gig that day. 

And then for the first time in their lives they shopped 
as partners in one concern. It was Christmas Eve, with its 
loads a holly and mistletoe, and the town was very full of 
strangers who had come in from all parts of the country on 
account of the day. Tess paid the penalty of walking about 
with happiness superadded to beauty on her countenance 
by being much stared at as she moved amid them on his 
arm. 

In the evening they returned to the inn at which they had 
put up, and Tess waited in the entry while Angel went to see 
the horse and gig brought to the door. The general sitting- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



room was full of guests, who were continually going in and 
out. As the door opened and shut each time for the passage 
of these, the light within the parlour fell full upon Tess's 
face. Two men came out and passed by her among the rest. 
One of them had stared her up and down in surprise, and 
she fancied he was a Trantridge man, though that village lay 
so many miles off that Trantridge folk were rarities here. 

A comely maid that,' said the other. 

'True, comely enough. But unless I make a great mis- 
take — ' And he negatived the remainder of the definition 
forthwith. 

Clare had just returned from the stable -yard, and, con- 
fronting the man on the threshold, heard the words, and 
saw the shrinking of Tess. The insult to her stung him to 
the quick, and before he had considered anything at all he 
struck the man on the chin with the full force of his fist, 
sending him staggering backwards into the passage. 

The man recovered himself, and seemed inclined to 
come on, and Clare, stepping outside the door, put himself 
in a posture of defence. But his opponent began to think 
better of the matter. He looked anew at Tess as he passed 
her, and said to Clare — 

'I beg pardon, sir; 'twas a complete mistake. I thought 
she was another woman, forty miles from here.' 

Clare, feeling then that he had been too hasty, and that 
he was, moreover, to blame for leaving her standing in an 
inn-passage, did what he usually did in such cases, gave the 
man five shillings to plaster the blow; and thus they parted, 
bidding each other a pacific good night. As soon as Clare 



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had taken the reins from the ostler, and the young couple 
had driven off, the two men went in the other direction. 

'And was it a mistake?' said the second one. 

'Not a bit of it. But I didn't want to hurt the gentleman's 
feelings — not I.' 

In the meantime the lovers were driving onward. 

'Could we put off our wedding till a little later?' Tess 
asked in a dry dull voice. 'I mean if we wished?' 

'No, my love. Calm yourself. Do you mean that the fellow 
may have time to summon me for assault?' he asked good- 
humouredly 

'No — I only meant — if it should have to be put off.' 

What she meant was not very clear, and he directed her 
to dismiss such fancies from her mind, which she obedi- 
ently did as well as she could. But she was grave, very grave, 
all the way home; till she thought, 'We shall go away, a very 
long distance, hundreds of miles from these parts, and such 
as this can never happen again, and no ghost of the past 
reach there.' 

They parted tenderly that night on the landing, and Clare 
ascended to his attic. Tess sat up getting on with some little 
requisites, lest the few remaining days should not afford suf- 
ficient time. While she sat she heard a noise in Angel's room 
overhead, a sound of thumping and struggling. Everybody 
else in the house was asleep, and in her anxiety lest Clare 
should be ill she ran up and knocked at his door, and asked 
him what was the matter. 

'Oh, nothing, dear,' he said from within. 'I am so sorry I 
disturbed you! But the reason is rather an amusing one: I fell 



.506 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



asleep and dreamt that I was fighting that fellow again who 
insulted you, and the noise you heard was my pummelling 
away with my fists at my portmanteau, which I pulled out 
to-day for packing. I am occasionally liable to these freaks 
in my sleep. Go to bed and think of it no more.' 

This was the last drachm required to turn the scale of 
her indecision. Declare the past to him by word of mouth 
she could not; but there was another way. She sat down and 
wrote on the four pages of a note-sheet a succinct narra- 
tive of those events of three or four years ago, put it into 
an envelope, and directed it to Clare. Then, lest the flesh 
should again be weak, she crept upstairs without any shoes 
and slipped the note under his door. 

Her night was a broken one, as it well might be, and she 
listened for the first faint noise overhead. It came, as usual; 
he descended, as usual. She descended. He met her at the 
bottom of the stairs and kissed her. Surely it was as warmly 
as ever! 

He looked a little disturbed and worn, she thought. But 
he said not a word to her about her revelation, even when 
they were alone. Could he have had it? Unless he began the 
subject she felt that she could say nothing. So the day passed, 
and it was evident that whatever he thought he meant to 
keep to himself. Yet he was frank and affectionate as before. 
Could it be that her doubts were childish? that he forgave 
her; that he loved her for what she was, just as she was, and 
smiled at her disquiet as at a foolish nightmare? Had he re- 
ally received her note? She glanced into his room, and could 
see nothing of it. It might be that he forgave her. But even 



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if he had not received it she had a sudden enthusiastic trust 
that he surely would forgive her. 

Every morning and night he was the same, and thus New 
Year's Eve broke — the wedding day. 

The lovers did not rise at milking-time, having through 
the whole of this last week of their sojourn at the dairy 
been accorded something of the position of guests, Tess 
being honoured with a room of her own. When they ar- 
rived downstairs at breakfast-time they were surprised to 
see what effects had been produced in the large kitchen for 
their glory since they had last beheld it. At some unnatural 
hour of the morning the dairyman had caused the yawn- 
ing chimney-corner to be whitened, and the brick hearth 
reddened, and a blazing yellow damask blower to be hung 
across the arch in place of the old grimy blue cotton one 
with a black sprig pattern which had formerly done duty 
there. This renovated aspect of what was the focus indeed 
of the room on a full winter morning threw a smiling de- 
meanour over the whole apartment. 

'I was determined to do summat in honour o't', said the 
dairyman. 'And as you wouldn't hear of my gieing a rat- 
tling good randy wi' fiddles and bass-viols complete, as we 
should ha' done in old times, this was all I could think o' as 
a noiseless thing.' 

Tess's friends lived so far off that none could convenient- 
ly have been present at the ceremony, even had any been 
asked; but as a fact nobody was invited from Marlott. As for 
Angel's family, he had written and duly informed them of 
the time, and assured them that he would be glad to see one 



.5 OS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



at least of them there for the day if he would like to come. His 
brothers had not replied at all, seeming to be indignant with 
him; while his father and mother had written a rather sad 
letter, deploring his precipitancy in rushing into marriage, 
but making the best of the matter by saying that, though a 
dairywoman was the last daughter-in-law they could have 
expected, their son had arrived at an age which he might be 
supposed to be the best judge. 

This coolness in his relations distressed Clare less than it 
would have done had he been without the grand card with 
which he meant to surprise them ere long. To produce Tess, 
fresh from the dairy, as a d'Urberville and a lady, he had 
felt to be temerarious and risky; hence he had concealed her 
lineage till such time as, familiarized with worldly ways by 
a few months' travel and reading with him, he could take 
her on a visit to his parents and impart the knowledge while 
triumphantly producing her as worthy of such an ancient 
line. It was a pretty lover's dream, if no more. Perhaps Tess's 
lineage had more value for himself than for anybody in the 
world beside. 

Her perception that Angel's bearing towards her still 
remained in no whit altered by her own communication 
rendered Tess guiltily doubtful if he could have received 
it. She rose from breakfast before he had finished, and has- 
tened upstairs. It had occurred to her to look once more 
into the queer gaunt room which had been Clare's den, or 
rather eyrie, for so long, and climbing the ladder she stood 
at the open door of the apartment, regarding and ponder- 
ing. She stooped to the threshold of the doorway, where she 



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had pushed in the note two or three days earlier in such 
excitement. The carpet reached close to the sill, and under 
the edge of the carpet she discerned the faint white mar- 
gin of the envelope containing her letter to him, which he 
obviously had never seen, owing to her having in her haste 
thrust it beneath the carpet as well as beneath the door. 

With a feeling of faintness she withdrew the letter. There 
it was — sealed up, just as it had left her hands. The moun- 
tain had not yet been removed. She could not let him read it 
now, the house being in full bustle of preparation; and de- 
scending to her own room she destroyed the letter there. 

She was so pale when he saw her again that he felt quite 
anxious. The incident of the misplaced letter she had jumped 
at as if it prevented a confession; but she knew in her con- 
science that it need not; there was still time. Yet everything 
was in a stir; there was coming and going; all had to dress, 
the dairyman and Mrs Crick having been asked to accom- 
pany them as witnesses; and reflection or deliberate talk 
was well-nigh impossible. The only minute Tess could get to 
be alone with Clare was when they met upon the landing. 

'I am so anxious to talk to you — I want to confess all my 
faults and blunders!' she said with attempted lightness. 

'No, no — we can't have faults talked of — you must be 
deemed perfect to-day at least, my Sweet!' he cried. 'We 
shall have plenty of time, hereafter, I hope, to talk over our 
failings. I will confess mine at the same time.' 

'But it would be better for me to do it now, I think, so that 
you could not say — ' 

Well, my quixotic one, you shall tell me anything — say, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



as soon as we are settled in our lodging; not now. I, too, will 
tell you my faults then. But do not let us spoil the day with 
them; they will be excellent matter for a dull time.' 

'Then you don't wish me to, dearest?' 

'I do not, Tessy, really' 

The hurry of dressing and starting left no time for more 
than this. Those words of his seemed to reassure her on fur- 
ther reflection. She was whirled onward through the next 
couple of critical hours by the mastering tide of her devotion 
to him, which closed up further meditation. Her one desire, 
so long resisted, to make herself his, to call him her lord, 
her own — then, if necessary, to die — had at last lifted her 
up from her plodding reflective pathway. In dressing, she 
moved about in a mental cloud of many- coloured idealities, 
which eclipsed all sinister contingencies by its brightness. 

The church was a long way off, and they were obliged to 
drive, particularly as it was winter. A closed carriage was 
ordered from a roadside inn, a vehicle which had been kept 
there ever since the old days of post-chaise travelling. It had 
stout wheel-spokes, and heavy felloes a great curved bed, 
immense straps and springs, and a pole like a battering- 
ram. The postilion was a venerable 'boy' of sixty — a martyr 
to rheumatic gout, the result of excessive exposure in youth, 
counter-acted by strong liquors — who had stood at inn- 
doors doing nothing for the whole five-and-twenty years 
that had elapsed since he had no longer been required to ride 
professionally, as if expecting the old times to come back 
again. He had a permanent running wound on the outside 
of his right leg, originated by the constant bruisings of aris- 



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tocratic carriage-poles during the many years that he had 
been in regular employ at the King's Arms, Casterbridge. 

Inside this cumbrous and creaking structure, and be- 
hind this decayed conductor, the partie carree took their 
seats — the bride and bridegroom and Mr and Mrs Crick. 
Angel would have liked one at least of his brothers to be 
present as groomsman, but their silence after his gentle hint 
to that effect by letter had signified that they did not care to 
come. They disapproved of the marriage, and could not be 
expected to countenance it. Perhaps it was as well that they 
could not be present. They were not worldly young fellows, 
but fraternizing with dairy-folk would have struck unpleas- 
antly upon their biased niceness, apart from their views of 
the match. 

Upheld by the momentum of the time, Tess knew noth- 
ing of this, did not see anything, did not know the road 
they were taking to the church. She knew that Angel was 
close to her; all the rest was a luminous mist. She was a sort 
of celestial person, who owed her being to poetry — one of 
those classical divinities Clare was accustomed to talk to 
her about when they took their walks together. 

The marriage being by licence there were only a dozen or 
so of people in the church; had there been a thousand they 
would have produced no more effect upon her. They were at 
stellar distances from her present world. In the ecstatic so- 
lemnity with which she swore her faith to him the ordinary 
sensibilities of sex seemed a flippancy. At a pause in the ser- 
vice, while they were kneeling together, she unconsciously 
inclined herself towards him, so that her shoulder touched 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



his arm; she had been frightened by a passing thought, and 
the movement had been automatic, to assure herself that 
he was really there, and to fortify her belief that his fidelity 
would be proof against all things. 

Clare knew that she loved him — every curve of her form 
showed that — but he did not know at that time the full 
depth of her devotion, its single-mindedness, its meekness; 
what long-suffering it guaranteed, what honesty, what en- 
durance, what good faith. 

As they came out of church the ringers swung the bells 
off their rests, and a modest peal of three notes broke forth — 
that limited amount of expression having been deemed 
sufficient by the church builders for the joys of such a small 
parish. Passing by the tower with her husband on the path 
to the gate she could feel the vibrant air humming round 
them from the louvred belfry in the circle of sound, and it 
matched the highly- charged mental atmosphere in which 
she was living. 

This condition of mind, wherein she felt glorified by an 
irradiation not her own, like the angel whom St John saw 
in the sun, lasted till the sound of the church bells had died 
away, and the emotions of the wedding-service had calmed 
down. Her eyes could dwell upon details more clearly now, 
and Mr and Mrs Crick having directed their own gig to be 
sent for them, to leave the carriage to the young couple, she 
observed the build and character of that conveyance for the 
first time. Sitting in silence she regarded it long. 

'I fancy you seem oppressed, Tessy,' said Clare. 

'Yes,' she answered, putting her hand to her brow. 'I trem- 



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ble at many things. It is all so serious, Angel. Among other 
things I seem to have seen this carriage before, to be very 
well acquainted with it. It is very odd — I must have seen it 
in a dream.' 

'Oh — you have heard the legend of the d'Urberville 
Coach — that well-known superstition of this county about 
your family when they were very popular here; and this 
lumbering old thing reminds you of it.' 

'I have never heard of it to my knowledge,' said she. 'What 
is the legend — may I know it?' 

'Well — I would rather not tell it in detail just now. A cer- 
tain d'Urberville of the sixteenth or seventeenth century 
committed a dreadful crime in his family coach; and since 
that time members of the family see or hear the old coach 
whenever — But I'll tell you another day — it is rather gloomy. 
Evidently some dim knowledge of it has been brought back 
to your mind by the sight of this venerable caravan.' 

'I don't remember hearing it before,' she murmured. 'Is it 
when we are going to die, Angel, that members of my family 
see it, or is it when we have committed a crime?' 

'Now, Tess!' 

He silenced her by a kiss. 

By the time they reached home she was contrite and spir- 
itless. She was Mrs Angel Clare, indeed, but had she any 
moral right to the name? Was she not more truly Mrs Al- 
exander d'Urberville? Could intensity of love justify what 
might be considered in upright souls as culpable reticence? 
She knew not what was expected of women in such cases; 
and she had no counsellor. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



However, when she found herself alone in her room for 
a few minutes — the last day this on which she was ever to 
enter it — she knelt down and prayed. She tried to pray to 
God, but it was her husband who really had her supplica- 
tion. Her idolatry of this man was such that she herself 
almost feared it to be ill-omened. She was conscious of the 
notion expressed by Friar Laurence: "These violent delights 
have violent ends.' It might be too desperate for human con- 
ditions — too rank, to wild, too deadly. 

'O my love, why do I love you so!' she whispered there 
alone; 'for she you love is not my real self, but one in my im- 
age; the one I might have been!' 

Afternoon came, and with it the hour for departure. 
They had decided to fulfil the plan of going for a few days 
to the lodgings in the old farmhouse near Wellbridge Mill, 
at which he meant to reside during his investigation of flour 
processes. At two o'clock there was nothing left to do but 
to start. All the servantry of the dairy were standing in the 
red-brick entry to see them go out, the dairyman and his 
wife following to the door. Tess saw her three chamber- 
mates in a row against the wall, pensively inclining their 
heads. She had much questioned if they would appear at the 
parting moment; but there they were, stoical and staunch to 
the last. She knew why the delicate Retty looked so fragile, 
and Izz so tragically sorrowful, and Marian so blank; and 
she forgot her own dogging shadow for a moment in con- 
templating theirs. 

She impulsively whispered to him — 

'Will you kiss 'em all, once, poor things, for the first and 



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last time?' 

Clare had not the least objection to such a farewell for- 
mality — which was all that it was to him — and as he passed 
them he kissed them in succession where they stood, saying 
'Goodbye' to each as he did so. When they reached the door 
Tess femininely glanced back to discern the effect of that 
kiss of charity; there was no triumph in her glance, as there 
might have been. If there had it would have disappeared 
when she saw how moved the girls all were. The kiss had 
obviously done harm by awakening feelings they were try- 
ing to subdue. 

Of all this Clare was unconscious. Passing on to the 
wicket-gate he shook hands with the dairyman and his wife, 
and expressed his last thanks to them for their attentions; 
after which there was a moment of silence before they had 
moved off. It was interrupted by the crowing of a cock. The 
white one with the rose comb had come and settled on the 
palings in front of the house, within a few yards of them, 
and his notes thrilled their ears through, dwindling away 
like echoes down a valley of rocks. 

'Oh?' said Mrs Crick. 'An afternoon crow!' 

Two men were standing by the yard gate, holding it 
open. 

'That's bad,' one murmured to the other, not thinking 
that the words could be heard by the group at the door- 
wicket. 

The cock crew again — straight towards Clare. 

'Well!' said the dairyman. 

'I don't like to hear him!' said Tess to her husband. 'Tell 



u6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



the man to drive on. Goodbye, goodbye!' 

The cock crew again. 

'Hoosh! Just you be off, sir, or I'll twist your neck!' said 
the dairyman with some irritation, turning to the bird and 
driving him away. And to his wife as they went indoors: 
'Now, to think o' that just to-day! I've not heard his crow of 
an afternoon all the year afore.' 

'It only means a change in the weather,' said she; 'not 
what you think: 'tis impossible!' 



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XXXIV 



They drove by the level road along the valley to a distance 
of a few miles, and, reaching Wellbridge, turned away from 
the village to the left, and over the great Elizabethan bridge 
which gives the place half its name. Immediately behind it 
stood the house wherein they had engaged lodgings, whose 
exterior features are so well known to all travellers through 
the Froom Valley; once portion of a fine manorial residence, 
and the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but since its 
partial demolition a farmhouse. 

'Welcome to one of your ancestral mansions!' said Clare 
as he handed her down. But he regretted the pleasantry; it 
was too near a satire. 

On entering they found that, though they had only en- 
gaged a couple of rooms, the farmer had taken advantage 
of their proposed presence during the coming days to pay 
a New Year's visit to some friends, leaving a woman from 
a neighbouring cottage to minister to their few wants. The 
absoluteness of possession pleased them, and they realized 
it as the first moment of their experience under their own 
exclusive roof-tree. 

But he found that the mouldy old habitation somewhat 
depressed his bride. When the carriage was gone they as- 
cended the stairs to wash their hands, the charwoman 
showing the way. On the landing Tess stopped and started. 



3 IS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'What's the matter?' said he. 

'Those horrid women!' she answered with a smile. 'How 
they frightened me.' 

He looked up, and perceived two life-size portraits on 
panels built into the masonry. As all visitors to the mansion 
are aware, these paintings represent women of middle age, 
of a date some two hundred years ago, whose lineaments 
once seen can never be forgotten. The long pointed features, 
narrow eye, and smirk of the one, so suggestive of merci- 
less treachery; the bill-hook nose, large teeth, and bold eye 
of the other suggesting arrogance to the point of ferocity, 
haunt the beholder afterwards in his dreams. 

'Whose portraits are those?' asked Clare of the char- 
woman. 

T have been told by old folk that they were ladies of the 
d'Urberville family, the ancient lords of this manor,' she 
said, 'Owing to their being builded into the wall they can't 
be moved away' 

The unpleasantness of the matter was that, in addition 
to their effect upon Tess, her fine features were unquestion- 
ably traceable in these exaggerated forms. He said nothing 
of this, however, and, regretting that he had gone out of his 
way to choose the house for their bridal time, went on into 
the adjoining room. The place having been rather hastily 
prepared for them, they washed their hands in one basin. 
Clare touched hers under the water. 

'Which are my fingers and which are yours?' he said, 
looking up. "They are very much mixed.' 

"They are all yours,' said she, very prettily, and endeav- 



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oured to be gayer than she was. He had not been displeased 
with her thoughtfulness on such an occasion; it was what 
every sensible woman would show: but Tess knew that she 
had been thoughtful to excess, and struggled against it. 

The sun was so low on that short last afternoon of the 
year that it shone in through a small opening and formed 
a golden staff which stretched across to her skirt, where it 
made a spot like a paint-mark set upon her. They went into 
the ancient parlour to tea, and here they shared their first 
common meal alone. Such was their childishness, or rather 
his, that he found it interesting to use the same bread-and- 
butter plate as herself, and to brush crumbs from her lips 
with his own. He wondered a little that she did not enter 
into these frivolities with his own zest. 

Looking at her silently for a long time; 'She is a dear dear 
Tess,' he thought to himself, as one deciding on the true 
construction of a difficult passage. 'Do I realize solemnly 
enough how utterly and irretrievably this little womanly 
thing is the creature of my good or bad faith and fortune? 
I think not. I think I could not, unless I were a woman my- 
self. What I am in worldly estate, she is. What I become, she 
must become. What I cannot be, she cannot be. And shall I 
ever neglect her, or hurt her, or even forget to consider her? 
God forbid such a crime!' 

They sat on over the tea-table waiting for their luggage, 
which the dairyman had promised to send before it grew 
dark. But evening began to close in, and the luggage did 
not arrive, and they had brought nothing more than they 
stood in. With the departure of the sun the calm mood of 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



the winter day changed. Out of doors there began noises as 
of silk smartly rubbed; the restful dead leaves of the pre- 
ceding autumn were stirred to irritated resurrection, and 
whirled about unwillingly, and tapped against the shutters. 
It soon began to rain. 

'That cock knew the weather was going to change,' said 
Clare. 

The woman who had attended upon them had gone 
home for the night, but she had placed candles upon the 
table, and now they lit them. Each candle-flame drew to- 
wards the fireplace. 

'These old houses are so draughty,' continued Angel, 
looking at the flames, and at the grease guttering down the 
sides. 'I wonder where that luggage is. We haven't even a 
brush and comb.' 

T don't know,' she answered, absent-minded. 

'Tess, you are not a bit cheerful this evening — not at all 
as you used to be. Those harridans on the panels upstairs 
have unsettled you. I am sorry I brought you here. I wonder 
if you really love me, after all?' 

He knew that she did, and the words had no serious in- 
tent; but she was surcharged with emotion, and winced like 
a wounded animal. Though she tried not to shed tears, she 
could not help showing one or two. 

T did not mean it!' said he, sorry. 'You are worried at not 
having your things, I know. I cannot think why old Jona- 
than has not come with them. Why, it is seven o'clock? Ah, 
there he is!' 

A knock had come to the door, and, there being nobody 



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else to answer it, Clare went out. He returned to the room 
with a small package in his hand. 

'It is not Jonathan, after all,' he said. 

'How vexing!' said Tess. 

The packet had been brought by a special messenger, 
who had arrived at Talbothays from Emminster Vicarage 
immediately after the departure of the married couple, and 
had followed them hither, being under injunction to deliv- 
er it into nobody's hands but theirs. Clare brought it to the 
light. It was less than a foot long, sewed up in canvas, sealed 
in red wax with his father's seal, and directed in his father's 
hand to 'Mrs Angel Clare.' 

'It is a little wedding-present for you, Tess,' said he, hand- 
ing it to her. 'How thoughtful they are!' 

Tess looked a little flustered as she took it. 

'I think I would rather have you open it, dearest,' said 
she, turning over the parcel. 'I don't like to break those great 
seals; they look so serious. Please open it for me!' 

He undid the parcel. Inside was a case of morocco leath- 
er, on the top of which lay a note and a key. 

The note was for Clare, in the following words: 

MY DEAR SON— 

Possibly you have forgotten that on the death of your 
godmother, Mrs Pitney, when you were a lad, she — vain, kind 
woman that she was — left to me a portion of the contents of 
her jewel-case in trust for your wife, if you should ever have 
one, as a mark of her affection for you and whomsoever you 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



should choose. This trust 1 have fulfilled, and the diamonds 
have been locked up at my banker's ever since. Though I feel it 
to be a somewhat incongruous act in the circumstances, I am, 
as you will see, bound to hand over the articles to the woman 
to whom the use of them for her lifetime will now rightly 
belong, and they are therefore promptly sent. They become, 1 
believe, heirlooms, strictly speaking, according to the terms 
of your godmother's will. The precise words of the clause that 
refers to this matter are enclosed. 

'I do remember,' said Clare; 'but I had quite forgotten.' 

Unlocking the case, they found it to contain a necklace, 
with pendant, bracelets, and ear-rings; and also some other 
small ornaments. 

Tess seemed afraid to touch them at first, but her eyes 
sparkled for a moment as much as the stones when Clare 
spread out the set. 

'Are they mine?' she asked incredulously. 

'They are, certainly' said he. 

He looked into the fire. He remembered how, when he 
was a lad of fifteen, his godmother, the Squire's wife — the 
only rich person with whom he had ever come in con- 
tact — had pinned her faith to his success; had prophesied a 
wondrous career for him. There had seemed nothing at all 
out of keeping with such a conjectured career in the storing 
up of these showy ornaments for his wife and the wives of 
her descendants. They gleamed somewhat ironically now. 
'Yet why?' he asked himself. It was but a question of vanity 
throughout; and if that were admitted into one side of the 



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equation it should be admitted into the other. His wife was a 
d'Urberville: whom could they become better than her? 

Suddenly he said with enthusiasm — 

'Tess, put them on — put them on!' And he turned from 
the fire to help her. 

But as if by magic she had already donned them — neck- 
lace, ear-rings, bracelets, and all. 

'But the gown isn't right, Tess,' said Clare. 'It ought to be 
a low one for a set of brilliants like that.' 

'Ought it?' said Tess. 

'Yes,' said he. 

He suggested to her how to tuck in the upper edge of her 
bodice, so as to make it roughly approximate to the cut for 
evening wear; and when she had done this, and the pen- 
dant to the necklace hung isolated amid the whiteness of 
her throat, as it was designed to do, he stepped back to sur- 
vey her. 

'My heavens,' said Clare, 'how beautiful you are!' 

As everybody knows, fine feathers make fine birds; a 
peasant girl but very moderately prepossessing to the casual 
observer in her simple condition and attire will bloom as an 
amazing beauty if clothed as a woman of fashion with the 
aids that Art can render; while the beauty of the midnight 
crush would often cut but a sorry figure if placed inside 
the field-woman's wrapper upon a monotonous acreage of 
turnips on a dull day. He had never till now estimated the 
artistic excellence of Tess's limbs and features. 

'If you were only to appear in a ball-room!' he said. 'But 
no — no, dearest; I think I love you best in the wing-bonnet 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



and cotton-frock — yes, better than in this, well as you sup- 
port these dignities.' 

Tess's sense of her striking appearance had given her a 
flush of excitement, which was yet not happiness. 

'I'll take them off,' she said, 'in case Jonathan should see 
me. They are not fit for me, are they? They must be sold, I 
suppose?' 

'Let them stay a few minutes longer. Sell them? Never. It 
would be a breach of faith.' 

Influenced by a second thought she readily obeyed. She 
had something to tell, and there might be help in these. She 
sat down with the jewels upon her; and they again indulged 
in conjectures as to where Jonathan could possibly be with 
their baggage. The ale they had poured out for his consump- 
tion when he came had gone flat with long standing. 

Shortly after this they began supper, which was already 
laid on a side-table. Ere they had finished there was a jerk in 
the fire-smoke, the rising skein of which bulged out into the 
room, as if some giant had laid his hand on the chimney- 
top for a moment. It had been caused by the opening of the 
outer door. A heavy step was now heard in the passage, and 
Angel went out. 

'I couldn' make nobody hear at all by knocking,' apolo- 
gized Jonathan Kail, for it was he at last; 'and as't was raining 
out I opened the door. I've brought the things, sir.' 

T am very glad to see them. But you are very late.' 

'Well, yes, sir.' 

There was something subdued in Jonathan Kail's tone 
which had not been there in the day, and lines of concern 



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were ploughed upon his forehead in addition to the lines of 
years. He continued — 

'We've all been gallied at the dairy at what might ha' been 
a most terrible affliction since you and your Mis'ess — so to 
name her now — left us this a'ternoon. Perhaps you ha'nt for- 
got the cock's afternoon crow?' 

'Dear me; — what — ' 

'Well, some says it do mane one thing, and some anoth- 
er; but what's happened is that poor little Retty Priddle hev 
tried to drown herself 

'No! Really! Why, she bade us goodbye with the rest — ' 

'Yes. Well, sir, when you and your Mis'ess — so to name 
what she lawful is — when you two drove away, as I say, Retty 
and Marian put on their bonnets and went out; and as there 
is not much doing now, being New Year's Eve, and folks mops 
and brooms from what's inside 'em, nobody took much no- 
tice. They went on to Lew-Everard, where they had summut 
to drink, and then on they vamped to Dree-armed Cross, 
and there they seemed to have parted, Retty striking across 
the water-meads as if for home, and Marian going on to the 
next village, where there's another public-house. Nothing 
more was zeed or heard o' Retty till the waterman, on his 
way home, noticed something by the Great Pool; 'twas her 
bonnet and shawl packed up. In the water he found her. He 
and another man brought her home, thinking a' was dead; 
but she fetched round by degrees.' 

Angel, suddenly recollecting that Tess was overhearing 
this gloomy tale, went to shut the door between the passage 
and the ante-room to the inner parlour where she was; but 



326 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



his wife, flinging a shawl round her, had come to the outer 
room and was listening to the man's narrative, her eyes rest- 
ing absently on the luggage and the drops of rain glistening 
upon it. 

'And, more than this, there's Marian; she's been found 
dead drunk by the withy-bed — a girl who hev never been 
known to touch anything before except shilling ale; though, 
to be sure, 'a was always a good trencher-woman, as her face 
showed. It seems as if the maids had all gone out o' their 
minds!' 

And Izz?' asked Tess. 

Tzz is about house as usual; but 'a do say 'a can guess how 
it happened; and she seems to be very low in mind about 
it, poor maid, as well she mid be. And so you see, sir, as all 
this happened just when we was packing your few traps and 
your Mis'ess's night-rail and dressing things into the cart, 
why, it belated me.' 

'Yes. Well, Jonathan, will you get the trunks upstairs, 
and drink a cup of ale, and hasten back as soon as you can, 
in case you should be wanted?' 

Tess had gone back to the inner parlour, and sat down by 
the fire, looking wistfully into it. She heard Jonathan Kail's 
heavy footsteps up and down the stairs till he had done 
placing the luggage, and heard him express his thanks for 
the ale her husband took out to him, and for the gratuity he 
received. Jonathan's footsteps then died from the door, and 
his cart creaked away. 

Angel slid forward the massive oak bar which secured 
the door, and coming in to where she sat over the hearth, 



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pressed her cheeks between his hands from behind. He ex- 
pected her to jump up gaily and unpack the toilet-gear that 
she had been so anxious about, but as she did not rise he sat 
down with her in the firelight, the candles on the supper- 
table being too thin and glimmering to interfere with its 
glow. 

'I am so sorry you should have heard this sad story about 
the girls,' he said. 'Still, don't let it depress you. Retty was 
naturally morbid, you know.' 

'Without the least cause,' said Tess. 'While they who have 
cause to be, hide it, and pretend they are not.' 

This incident had turned the scale for her. They were 
simple and innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of 
unrequited love had fallen; they had deserved better at the 
hands of Fate. She had deserved worse — yet she was the 
chosen one. It was wicked of her to take all without pay- 
ing. She would pay to the uttermost farthing; she would tell, 
there and then. This final determination she came to when 
she looked into the fire, he holding her hand. 

A steady glare from the now flameless embers painted the 
sides and back of the fireplace with its colour, and the well- 
polished andirons, and the old brass tongs that would not 
meet. The underside of the mantel-shelf was flushed with 
the high-coloured light, and the legs of the table nearest the 
fire. Tess's face and neck reflected the same warmth, which 
each gem turned into an Aldebaran or a Sirius — a constella- 
tion of white, red, and green flashes, that interchanged their 
hues with her every pulsation. 

'Do you remember what we said to each other this morn- 



328 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ing about telling our faults?' he asked abruptly, finding that 
she still remained immovable. 'We spoke lightly perhaps, 
and you may well have done so. But for me it was no light 
promise. I want to make a confession to you, Love.' 

This, from him, so unexpectedly apposite, had the effect 
upon her of a Providential interposition. 

'You have to confess something?' she said quickly, and 
even with gladness and relief. 

'You did not expect it? Ah — you thought too highly of 
me. Now listen. Put your head there, because I want you to 
forgive me, and not to be indignant with me for not telling 
you before, as perhaps I ought to have done.' 

How strange it was! He seemed to be her double. She did 
not speak, and Clare went on — 

'I did not mention it because I was afraid of endangering 
my chance of you, darling, the great prize of my life — my 
Fellowship I call you. My brother's Fellowship was won at 
his college, mine at Talbothays Dairy. Well, I would not 
risk it. I was going to tell you a month ago — at the time you 
agreed to be mine, but I could not; I thought it might fright- 
en you away from me. I put it off; then I thought I would tell 
you yesterday, to give you a chance at least of escaping me. 
But I did not. And I did not this morning, when you pro- 
posed our confessing our faults on the landing — the sinner 
that I was! But I must, now I see you sitting there so solemn- 
ly. I wonder if you will forgive me?' 

'O yes! I am sure that — ' 

'Well, I hope so. But wait a minute. You don't know. To 
begin at the beginning. Though I imagine my poor father 



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fears that I am one of the eternally lost for my doctrines, 
I am of course, a believer in good morals, Tess, as much 
as you. I used to wish to be a teacher of men, and it was a 
great disappointment to me when I found I could not en- 
ter the Church. I admired spotlessness, even though I could 
lay no claim to it, and hated impurity, as I hope I do now. 
Whatever one may think of plenary inspiration, one must 
heartily subscribe to these words of Paul: 'Be thou an exam- 
ple — in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, 
in purity.' It is the only safeguard for us poor human beings. 
'Integer vitae,' says a Roman poet, who is strange company 
for St Paul— 

"The man of upright life, from frailties free, 
Stands not in need of Moorish spear or bow. 

'Well, a certain place is paved with good intentions, and 
having felt all that so strongly, you will see what a terrible 
remorse it bred in me when, in the midst of my fine aims for 
other people, I myself fell.' 

He then told her of that time of his life to which allusion 
has been made when, tossed about by doubts and difficulties 
in London, like a cork on the waves, he plunged into eight- 
and-forty hours' dissipation with a stranger. 

'Happily I awoke almost immediately to a sense of my 
folly,' he continued. 'I would have no more to say to her, and 
I came home. I have never repeated the offence. But I felt I 
should like to treat you with perfect frankness and honour, 
and I could not do so without telling this. Do you forgive 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She pressed his hand tightly for an answer. 

'Then we will dismiss it at once and for ever! — too pain- 
ful as it is for the occasion — and talk of something lighter.' 

'O, Angel — I am almost glad — because now YOU can 
forgive ME! I have not made my confession. I have a confes- 
sion, too — remember, I said so.' 

'Ah, to be sure! Now then for it, wicked little one.' 

'Perhaps, although you smile, it is as serious as yours, or 
more so.' 

'It can hardly be more serious, dearest.' 

'It cannot — O no, it cannot!' She jumped up joyfully 
at the hope. 'No, it cannot be more serious, certainly,' she 
cried, 'because 'tis just the same! I will tell you now.' 

She sat down again. 

Their hands were still joined. The ashes under the grate 
were lit by the fire vertically, like a torrid waste. Imagination 
might have beheld a Last Day luridness in this red-coaled 
glow, which fell on his face and hand, and on hers, peering 
into the loose hair about her brow, and firing the delicate 
skin underneath. A large shadow of her shape rose upon the 
wall and ceiling. She bent forward, at which each diamond 
on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad's; and press- 
ing her forehead against his temple she entered on her story 
of her acquaintance with Alec d'Urberville and its results, 
murmuring the words without flinching, and with her eye- 
lids drooping down. 

END OF PHASE THE FOURTH 



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Phase the Fifth: The 
Woman Pays 



XXXV 

Her narrative ended; even its re-assertions and second- 
ary explanations were done. Tess's voice throughout had 
hardly risen higher than its opening tone; there had been 
no exculpatory phrase of any kind, and she had not wept. 

But the complexion even of external things seemed to 
suffer transmutation as her announcement progressed. 
The fire in the grate looked impish — demoniacally funny, 
as if it did not care in the least about her strait. The fender 
grinned idly, as if it too did not care. The light from the wa- 
ter-bottle was merely engaged in a chromatic problem. All 
material objects around announced their irresponsibility 
with terrible iteration. And yet nothing had changed since 
the moments when he had been kissing her; or rather, noth- 
ing in the substance of things. But the essence of things had 
changed. 

When she ceased, the auricular impressions from their 
previous endearments seemed to hustle away into the cor- 
ner of their brains, repeating themselves as echoes from a 
time of supremely purblind foolishness. 

Clare performed the irrelevant act of stirring the fire; the 
intelligence had not even yet got to the bottom of him. Af- 

332 Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ter stirring the embers he rose to his feet; all the force of her 
disclosure had imparted itself now. His face had withered. 
In the strenuousness of his concentration he treadled fitfully 
on the floor. He could not, by any contrivance, think close- 
ly enough; that was the meaning of his vague movement. 
When he spoke it was in the most inadequate, common- 
place voice of the many varied tones she had heard from 
him. 

'Tess!' 

'Yes, dearest.' 

Am I to believe this? From your manner I am to take it 
as true. O you cannot be out of your mind! You ought to be! 
Yet you are not... My wife, my Tess — nothing in you war- 
rants such a supposition as that?' 

'I am not out of my mind,' she said. 

And yet — ' He looked vacantly at her, to resume with 
dazed senses: 'Why didn't you tell me before? Ah, yes, you 
would have told me, in a way — but I hindered you, I remem- 
ber!' 

These and other of his words were nothing but the per- 
functory babble of the surface while the depths remained 
paralyzed. He turned away, and bent over a chair. Tess fol- 
lowed him to the middle of the room, where he was, and 
stood there staring at him with eyes that did not weep. Pres- 
ently she slid down upon her knees beside his foot, and from 
this position she crouched in a heap. 

'In the name of our love, forgive me!' she whispered with 
a dry mouth. 'I have forgiven you for the same!' 

And, as he did not answer, she said again — 



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'Forgive me as you are forgiven! I forgive YOU, Angel.' 

'You — yes, you do.' 

'But you do not forgive me?' 

'O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case! You were 
one person; now you are another. My God — how can for- 
giveness meet such a grotesque — prestidigitation as that!' 

He paused, contemplating this definition; then suddenly 
broke into horrible laughter — as unnatural and ghastly as a 
laugh in hell. 

'Don't — don't! It kills me quite, that!' she shrieked. 'O 
have mercy upon me — have mercy!' 

He did not answer; and, sickly white, she jumped up. 

'Angel, Angel! what do you mean by that laugh?' she 
cried out. 'Do you know what this is to me?' 

He shook his head. 

'I have been hoping, longing, praying, to make you 
happy! I have thought what joy it will be to do it, what an 
unworthy wife I shall be if I do not! That's what I have felt, 
Angel!' 

'I know that.' 

'I thought, Angel, that you loved me — me, my very self! 
If it is I you do love, O how can it be that you look and speak 
so? It frightens me! Having begun to love you, I love you for 
ever — in all changes, in all disgraces, because you are your- 
self. I ask no more. Then how can you, O my own husband, 
stop loving me?' 

'I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you.' 

'But who?' 

Another woman in your shape.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She perceived in his words the realization of her own ap- 
prehensive foreboding in former times. He looked upon her 
as a species of imposter; a guilty woman in the guise of an 
innocent one. Terror was upon her white face as she saw it; 
her cheek was flaccid, and her mouth had almost the aspect 
of a round little hole. The horrible sense of his view of her 
so deadened her that she staggered, and he stepped forward, 
thinking she was going to fall. 

'Sit down, sit down,' he said gently. 'You are ill; and it is 
natural that you should be.' 

She did sit down, without knowing where she was, that 
strained look still upon her face, and her eyes such as to 
make his flesh creep. 

'I don't belong to you any more, then; do I, Angel?' she 
asked helplessly. 'It is not me, but another woman like me 
that he loved, he says.' 

The image raised caused her to take pity upon herself as 
one who was ill-used. Her eyes filled as she regarded her 
position further; she turned round and burst into a flood of 
self-sympathetic tears. 

Clare was relieved at this change, for the effect on her of 
what had happened was beginning to be a trouble to him 
only less than the woe of the disclosure itself. He waited pa- 
tiently, apathetically, till the violence of her grief had worn 
itself out, and her rush of weeping had lessened to a catch- 
ing gasp at intervals. 

Angel,' she said suddenly, in her natural tones, the in- 
sane, dry voice of terror having left her now. Angel, am I too 
wicked for you and me to live together?' 



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'I have not been able to think what we can do.' 

'I shan't ask you to let me live with you, Angel, because 
I have no right to! I shall not write to mother and sisters to 
say we be married, as I said I would do; and I shan't finish 
the good-hussif ' I cut out and meant to make while we were 
in lodgings.' 

'Shan't you?' 

'No, I shan't do anything, unless you order me to; and if 
you go away from me I shall not follow 'ee; and if you never 
speak to me any more I shall not ask why, unless you tell 
me I may' 

'And if I order you to do anything?' 

'I will obey you like your wretched slave, even if it is to 
lie down and die.' 

'You are very good. But it strikes me that there is a want 
of harmony between your present mood of self-sacrifice and 
your past mood of self-preservation.' 

These were the first words of antagonism. To fling elab- 
orate sarcasms at Tess, however, was much like flinging 
them at a dog or cat. The charms of their subtlety passed 
by her unappreciated, and she only received them as inimi- 
cal sounds which meant that anger ruled. She remained 
mute, not knowing that he was smothering his affection for 
her. She hardly observed that a tear descended slowly upon 
his cheek, a tear so large that it magnified the pores of the 
skin over which it rolled, like the object lens of a micro- 
scope. Meanwhile reillumination as to the terrible and total 
change that her confession had wrought in his life, in his 
universe, returned to him, and he tried desperately to ad- 



336 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



vance among the new conditions in which he stood. Some 
consequent action was necessary; yet what? 

'Tess,' he said, as gently as he could speak, 'I cannot 
stay — in this room — just now. I will walk out a little way' 

He quietly left the room, and the two glasses of wine that 
he had poured out for their supper — one for her, one for 
him — remained on the table untasted. This was what their 
agape had come to. At tea, two or three hours earlier, they 
had, in the freakishness of affection, drunk from one cup. 

The closing of the door behind him, gently as it had been 
pulled to, roused Tess from her stupor. He was gone; she 
could not stay. Hastily flinging her cloak around her she 
opened the door and followed, putting out the candles as 
if she were never coming back. The rain was over and the 
night was now clear. 

She was soon close at his heels, for Clare walked slowly 
and without purpose. His form beside her light gray fig- 
ure looked black, sinister, and forbidding, and she felt as 
sarcasm the touch of the jewels of which she had been mo- 
mentarily so proud. Clare turned at hearing her footsteps, 
but his recognition of her presence seemed to make no dif- 
ference to him, and he went on over the five yawning arches 
of the great bridge in front of the house. 

The cow and horse tracks in the road were full of wa- 
ter, the rain having been enough to charge them, but not 
enough to wash them away. Across these minute pools the 
reflected stars flitted in a quick transit as she passed; she 
would not have known they were shining overhead if she 
had not seen them there — the vastest things of the universe 



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imaged in objects so mean. 

The place to which they had travelled to-day was in the 
same valley as Talbothays, but some miles lower down the 
river; and the surroundings being open, she kept easily in 
sight of him. Away from the house the road wound through 
the meads, and along these she followed Clare without any 
attempt to come up with him or to attract him, but with 
dumb and vacant fidelity. 

At last, however, her listless walk brought her up along- 
side him, and still he said nothing. The cruelty of fooled 
honesty is often great after enlightenment, and it was mighty 
in Clare now. The outdoor air had apparently taken away 
from him all tendency to act on impulse; she knew that he 
saw her without irradiation — in all her bareness; that Time 
was chanting his satiric psalm at her then — 

Behold, when thy face is made bare, he that loved thee 
shall hate; 

Thy face shall be no more fair at the fall of thy fate. 
For thy life shall fall as a leaf and be shed as the rain; 
And the veil of thine head shall be grief, and the crown 
shall be pain. 

He was still intently thinking, and her companionship 
had now insufficient power to break or divert the strain of 
thought. What a weak thing her presence must have become 
to him! She could not help addressing Clare. 

'What have I done — what HAVE I done! I have not told 
of anything that interferes with or belies my love for you. 



338 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



You don't think I planned it, do you? It is in your own mind 
what you are angry at, Angel; it is not in me. O, it is not in 
me, and I am not that deceitful woman you think me!' 

'H'm — well. Not deceitful, my wife; but not the same. 
No, not the same. But do not make me reproach you. I have 
sworn that I will not; and I will do everything to avoid it.' 

But she went on pleading in her distraction; and perhaps 
said things that would have been better left to silence. 

Angel! — Angel! I was a child — a child when it happened! 
I knew nothing of men.' 

'You were more sinned against than sinning, that I ad- 
mit.' 

'Then will you not forgive me?' 

'I do forgive you, but forgiveness is not all.' 

And love me?' 

To this question he did not answer. 

'O Angel — my mother says that it sometimes happens 
so! — she knows several cases where they were worse than I, 
and the husband has not minded it much — has got over it at 
least. And yet the woman had not loved him as I do you!' 

'Don't, Tess; don't argue. Different societies, different 
manners. You almost make me say you are an unapprehend- 
ing peasant woman, who have never been initiated into the 
proportions of social things. You don't know what you say.' 

'I am only a peasant by position, not by nature!' 

She spoke with an impulse to anger, but it went as it 
came. 

'So much the worse for you. I think that parson who un- 
earthed your pedigree would have done better if he had held 



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his tongue. I cannot help associating your decline as a fam- 
ily with this other fact — of your want of firmness. Decrepit 
families imply decrepit wills, decrepit conduct. Heaven, 
why did you give me a handle for despising you more by 
informing me of your descent! Here was I thinking you 
a new-sprung child of nature; there were you, the belated 
seedling of an effete aristocracy!' 

'Lots of families are as bad as mine in that! Retty's family 
were once large landowners, and so were Dairyman Billett's. 
And the Debbyhouses, who now are carters, were once the 
De Bayeux family. You find such as I everywhere; 'tis a fea- 
ture of our county, and I can't help it.' 

'So much the worse for the county.' 

She took these reproaches in their bulk simply, not in 
their particulars; he did not love her as he had loved her 
hitherto, and to all else she was indifferent. 

They wandered on again in silence. It was said after- 
wards that a cottager of Wellbridge, who went out late that 
night for a doctor, met two lovers in the pastures, walking 
very slowly, without converse, one behind the other, as in 
a funeral procession, and the glimpse that he obtained of 
their faces seemed to denote that they were anxious and 
sad. Returning later, he passed them again in the same field, 
progressing just as slowly, and as regardless of the hour and 
of the cheerless night as before. It was only on account of 
his preoccupation with his own affairs, and the illness in 
his house, that he did not bear in mind the curious incident, 
which, however, he recalled a long while after. 

During the interval of the cottager's going and coming, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



she had said to her husband — 

'I don't see how I can help being the cause of much mis- 
ery to you all your life. The river is down there. I can put an 
end to myself in it. I am not afraid.' 

'I don't wish to add murder to my other follies,' he said. 

'I will leave something to show that I did it myself — on 
account of my shame. They will not blame you then.' 

'Don't speak so absurdly — I wish not to hear it. It is non- 
sense to have such thoughts in this kind of case, which is 
rather one for satirical laughter than for tragedy. You don't 
in the least understand the quality of the mishap. It would 
be viewed in the light of a joke by nine-tenths of the world if 
it were known. Please oblige me by returning to the house, 
and going to bed.' 

'I will,' said she dutifully. 

They had rambled round by a road which led to the well- 
known ruins of the Cistercian abbey behind the mill, the 
latter having, in centuries past, been attached to the mo- 
nastic establishment. The mill still worked on, food being 
a perennial necessity; the abbey had perished, creeds be- 
ing transient. One continually sees the ministration of the 
temporary outlasting the ministration of the eternal. Their 
walk having been circuitous, they were still not far from the 
house, and in obeying his direction she only had to reach the 
large stone bridge across the main river and follow the road 
for a few yards. When she got back, everything remained as 
she had left it, the fire being still burning. She did not stay 
downstairs for more than a minute, but proceeded to her 
chamber, whither the luggage had been taken. Here she sat 



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down on the edge of the bed, looking blankly around, and 
presently began to undress. In removing the light towards 
the bedstead its rays fell upon the tester of white dimity; 
something was hanging beneath it, and she lifted the candle 
to see what it was. A bough of mistletoe. Angel had put it 
there; she knew that in an instant. This was the explanation 
of that mysterious parcel which it had been so difficult to 
pack and bring; whose contents he would not explain to her, 
saying that time would soon show her the purpose thereof. 
In his zest and his gaiety he had hung it there. How foolish 
and inopportune that mistletoe looked now. 

Having nothing more to fear, having scarce anything 
to hope, for that he would relent there seemed no prom- 
ise whatever, she lay down dully. When sorrow ceases to be 
speculative, sleep sees her opportunity. Among so many 
happier moods which forbid repose this was a mood which 
welcomed it, and in a few minutes the lonely Tess forgot ex- 
istence, surrounded by the aromatic stillness of the chamber 
that had once, possibly, been the bride-chamber of her own 
ancestry. 

Later on that night Clare also retraced his steps to the 
house. Entering softly to the sitting-room he obtained a 
light, and with the manner of one who had considered his 
course he spread his rugs upon the old horse-hair sofa which 
stood there, and roughly shaped it to a sleeping-couch. Be- 
fore lying down he crept shoeless upstairs, and listened at 
the door of her apartment. Her measured breathing told 
that she was sleeping profoundly. 

'Thank God!' murmured Clare; and yet he was conscious 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



of a pang of bitterness at the thought — approximately true, 
though not wholly so — that having shifted the burden of her 
life to his shoulders, she was now reposing without care. 

He turned away to descend; then, irresolute, faced round 
to her door again. In the act he caught sight of one of the 
d'Urberville dames, whose portrait was immediately over 
the entrance to Tess's bedchamber. In the candlelight the 
painting was more than unpleasant. Sinister design lurked 
in the woman's features, a concentrated purpose of revenge 
on the other sex — so it seemed to him then. The Caroline 
bodice of the portrait was low — precisely as Tess's had been 
when he tucked it in to show the necklace; and again he 
experienced the distressing sensation of a resemblance be- 
tween them. 

The check was sufficient. He resumed his retreat and de- 
scended. 

His air remained calm and cold, his small compressed 
mouth indexing his powers of self-control; his face wearing 
still that terrible sterile expression which had spread there- 
on since her disclosure. It was the face of a man who was no 
longer passion's slave, yet who found no advantage in his 
enfranchisement. He was simply regarding the harrowing 
contingencies of human experience, the unexpectedness of 
things. Nothing so pure, so sweet, so virginal as Tess had 
seemed possible all the long while that he had adored her, 
up to an hour ago; but 

The little less, and what worlds away! 



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He argued erroneously when he said to himself that her 
heart was not indexed in the honest freshness of her face; 
but Tess had no advocate to set him right. Could it be pos- 
sible, he continued, that eyes which as they gazed never 
expressed any divergence from what the tongue was telling, 
were yet ever seeing another world behind her ostensible 
one, discordant and contrasting? 

He reclined on his couch in the sitting-room, and extin- 
guished the light. The night came in, and took up its place 
there, unconcerned and indifferent; the night which had al- 
ready swallowed up his happiness, and was now digesting 
it listlessly; and was ready to swallow up the happiness of a 
thousand other people with as little disturbance or change 
of mien. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXXVI 



Clare arose in the light of a dawn that was ashy and 
furtive, as though associated with crime. The fireplace 
confronted him with its extinct embers; the spread supper- 
table, whereon stood the two full glasses of untasted wine, 
now flat and filmy; her vacated seat and his own; the oth- 
er articles of furniture, with their eternal look of not being 
able to help it, their intolerable inquiry what was to be done? 
From above there was no sound; but in a few minutes there 
came a knock at the door. He remembered that it would be 
the neighbouring cottager's wife, who was to minister to 
their wants while they remained here. 

The presence of a third person in the house would be ex- 
tremely awkward just now, and, being already dressed, he 
opened the window and informed her that they could man- 
age to shift for themselves that morning. She had a milk-can 
in her hand, which he told her to leave at the door. When 
the dame had gone away he searched in the back quarters of 
the house for fuel, and speedily lit a fire. There was plenty of 
eggs, butter, bread, and so on in the larder, and Clare soon 
had breakfast laid, his experiences at the dairy having ren- 
dered him facile in domestic preparations. The smoke of the 
kindled wood rose from the chimney without like a lotus- 
headed column; local people who were passing by saw it, 
and thought of the newly-married couple, and envied their 



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happiness. 

Angel cast a final glance round, and then going to the 
foot of the stairs, called in a conventional voice — 

'Breakfast is ready!' 

He opened the front door, and took a few steps in the 
morning air. When, after a short space, he came back she 
was already in the sitting-room mechanically readjusting 
the breakfast things. As she was fully attired, and the inter- 
val since his calling her had been but two or three minutes, 
she must have been dressed or nearly so before he went to 
summon her. Her hair was twisted up in a large round mass 
at the back of her head, and she had put on one of the new 
frocks — a pale blue woollen garment with neck-frillings of 
white. Her hands and face appeared to be cold, and she had 
possibly been sitting dressed in the bedroom a long time 
without any fire. The marked civility of Clare's tone in call- 
ing her seemed to have inspired her, for the moment, with 
a new glimmer of hope. But it soon died when she looked 
at him. 

The pair were, in truth, but the ashes of their former 
fires. To the hot sorrow of the previous night had succeed- 
ed heaviness; it seemed as if nothing could kindle either of 
them to fervour of sensation any more. 

He spoke gently to her, and she replied with a like unde- 
monstrativeness. At last she came up to him, looking in his 
sharply-defined face as one who had no consciousness that 
her own formed a visible object also. 

Angel!' she said, and paused, touching him with her fin- 
gers lightly as a breeze, as though she could hardly believe 



J4i5 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



to be there in the flesh the man who was once her lover. 
Her eyes were bright, her pale cheek still showed its wonted 
roundness, though half-dried tears had left glistening traces 
thereon; and the usually ripe red mouth was almost as pale 
as her cheek. Throbbingly alive as she was still, under the 
stress of her mental grief the life beat so brokenly that a little 
further pull upon it would cause real illness, dull her char- 
acteristic eyes, and make her mouth thin. 

She looked absolutely pure. Nature, in her fantastic 
trickery, had set such a seal of maidenhood upon Tess's 
countenance that he gazed at her with a stupefied air. 

'Tess! Say it is not true! No, it is not true!' 

'It is true.' 

'Every word?' 

'Every word.' 

He looked at her imploringly, as if he would willingly 
have taken a lie from her lips, knowing it to be one, and 
have made of it, by some sort of sophistry, a valid denial. 
However, she only repeated — 

'It is true.' 

'Is he living?' Angel then asked. 

"The baby died.' 

'But the man?' 

'He is alive.' 

A last despair passed over Clare's face. 

'Is he in England?' 

'Yes.' 

He took a few vague steps. 

'My position — is this,' he said abruptly. 'I thought — any 



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man would have thought — that by giving up all ambition to 
win a wife with social standing, with fortune, with knowl- 
edge of the world, I should secure rustic innocence as surely 
as I should secure pink cheeks; but — However, I am no man 
to reproach you, and I will not.' 

Tess felt his position so entirely that the remainder had 
not been needed. Therein lay just the distress of it; she saw 
that he had lost all round. 

'Angel — I should not have let it go on to marriage with 
you if I had not known that, after all, there was a last way 
out of it for you; though I hoped you would never — ' 

Her voice grew husky. 

'A last way?' 

'I mean, to get rid of me. You CAN get rid of me.' 

'How?' 

'By divorcing me.' 

'Good heavens — how can you be so simple! How can I 
divorce you?' 

'Can't you — now I have told you? I thought my confes- 
sion would give you grounds for that.' 

'O Tess — you are too, too — childish — unformed — crude, 
I suppose! I don't know what you are. You don't understand 
the law — you don't understand!' 

'What — you cannot?' 

'Indeed I cannot.' 

A quick shame mixed with the misery upon his listener's 
face. 

'I thought — I thought,' she whispered. 'O, now I see how 
wicked I seem to you! Believe me — believe me, on my soul, 



348 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



I never thought but that you could! I hoped you would not; 
yet I believed, without a doubt, that you could cast me off if 
you were determined, and didn't love me at — at — all!' 

'You were mistaken,' he said. 

'O, then I ought to have done it, to have done it last night! 
But I hadn't the courage. That's just like me!' 

'The courage to do what?' 

As she did not answer he took her by the hand. 

'What were you thinking of doing?' he inquired. 

'Of putting an end to myself 

'When?' 

She writhed under this inquisitorial manner of his. 'Last 
night,' she answered. 

'Where?' 

'Under your mistletoe.' 

'My good — ! How?' he asked sternly. 

'I'll tell you, if you won't be angry with me!' she said, 
shrinking. 'It was with the cord of my box. But I could not — 
do the last thing! I was afraid that it might cause a scandal 
to your name.' 

The unexpected quality of this confession, wrung from 
her, and not volunteered, shook him perceptibly. But he still 
held her, and, letting his glance fall from her face down- 
wards, he said, 'Now, listen to this. You must not dare to 
think of such a horrible thing! How could you! You will 
promise me as your husband to attempt that no more.' 

'I am ready to promise. I saw how wicked it was.' 

'Wicked! The idea was unworthy of you beyond descrip- 
tion.' 



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'But, Angel,' she pleaded, enlarging her eyes in calm 
unconcern upon him, 'it was thought of entirely on your 
account — to set you free without the scandal of the divorce 
that I thought you would have to get. I should never have 
dreamt of doing it on mine. However, to do it with my own 
hand is too good for me, after all. It is you, my ruined hus- 
band, who ought to strike the blow. I think I should love you 
more, if that were possible, if you could bring yourself to do 
it, since there's no other way of escape for 'ee. I feel I am so 
utterly worthless! So very greatly in the way!' 

'Ssh!' 

'Well, since you say no, I won't. I have no wish opposed 
to yours.' 

He knew this to be true enough. Since the desperation of 
the night her activities had dropped to zero, and there was 
no further rashness to be feared. 

Tess tried to busy herself again over the breakfast-table 
with more or less success, and they sat down both on the 
same side, so that their glances did not meet. There was 
at first something awkward in hearing each other eat and 
drink, but this could not be escaped; moreover, the amount 
of eating done was small on both sides. Breakfast over, he 
rose, and telling her the hour at which he might be expected 
to dinner, went off to the miller's in a mechanical pursuance 
of the plan of studying that business, which had been his 
only practical reason for coming here. 

When he was gone Tess stood at the window, and pres- 
ently saw his form crossing the great stone bridge which 
conducted to the mill premises. He sank behind it, crossed 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



the railway beyond, and disappeared. Then, without a sigh, 
she turned her attention to the room, and began clearing 
the table and setting it in order. 

The charwoman soon came. Her presence was at first a 
strain upon Tess, but afterwards an alleviation. At half-past 
twelve she left her assistant alone in the kitchen, and, re- 
turning to the sitting-room, waited for the reappearance of 
Angel's form behind the bridge. 

About one he showed himself. Her face flushed, although 
he was a quarter of a mile off. She ran to the kitchen to get 
the dinner served by the time he should enter. He went first 
to the room where they had washed their hands together 
the day before, and as he entered the sitting-room the dish- 
covers rose from the dishes as if by his own motion. 

'How punctual!' he said. 

'Yes. I saw you coming over the bridge,' said she. 

The meal was passed in commonplace talk of what he 
had been doing during the morning at the Abbey Mill, of 
the methods of bolting and the old-fashioned machinery, 
which he feared would not enlighten him greatly on mod- 
ern improved methods, some of it seeming to have been in 
use ever since the days it ground for the monks in the ad- 
joining conventual buildings — now a heap of ruins. He left 
the house again in the course of an hour, coming home at 
dusk, and occupying himself through the evening with his 
papers. She feared she was in the way and, when the old 
woman was gone, retired to the kitchen, where she made 
herself busy as well as she could for more than an hour. 

Clare's shape appeared at the door. 'You must not work 



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like this,' he said. 'You are not my servant; you are my 
wife.' 

She raised her eyes, and brightened somewhat. 'I may 
think myself that — indeed?' she murmured, in piteous rail- 
lery. 'You mean in name! Well, I don't want to be anything 
more.' 

'You MAY think so, Tess! You are. What do you mean?' 

'I don't know,' she said hastily, with tears in her accents. 
'I thought I — because I am not respectable, I mean. I told 
you I thought I was not respectable enough long ago — and 
on that account I didn't want to marry you, only — only you 
urged me!' 

She broke into sobs, and turned her back to him. It would 
almost have won round any man but Angel Clare. Within 
the remote depths of his constitution, so gentle and affec- 
tionate as he was in general, there lay hidden a hard logical 
deposit, like a vein of metal in a soft loam, which turned 
the edge of everything that attempted to traverse it. It had 
blocked his acceptance of the Church; it blocked his accep- 
tance of Tess. Moreover, his affection itself was less fire than 
radiance, and, with regard to the other sex, when he ceased 
to believe he ceased to follow: contrasting in this with many 
impressionable natures, who remain sensuously infatuated 
with what they intellectually despise. He waited till her sob- 
bing ceased. 

'I wish half the women in England were as respectable as 
you,' he said, in an ebullition of bitterness against woman- 
kind in general. 'It isn't a question of respectability, but one 
of principle!' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



He spoke such things as these and more of a kindred sort 
to her, being still swayed by the antipathetic wave which 
warps direct souls with such persistence when once their vi- 
sion finds itself mocked by appearances. There was, it is true, 
underneath, a back current of sympathy through which a 
woman of the world might have conquered him. But Tess 
did not think of this; she took everything as her deserts, and 
hardly opened her mouth. The firmness of her devotion to 
him was indeed almost pitiful; quick-tempered as she natu- 
rally was, nothing that he could say made her unseemly; she 
sought not her own; was not provoked; thought no evil of 
his treatment of her. She might just now have been Apostol- 
ic Charity herself returned to a self-seeking modern world. 

This evening, night, and morning were passed precisely 
as the preceding ones had been passed. On one, and only 
one, occasion did she — the formerly free and independent 
Tess — venture to make any advances. It was on the third 
occasion of his starting after a meal to go out to the flour- 
mill. As he was leaving the table he said 'Goodbye,' and she 
replied in the same words, at the same time inclining her 
mouth in the way of his. He did not avail himself of the 
invitation, saying, as he turned hastily aside — 

'I shall be home punctually' 

Tess shrank into herself as if she had been struck. Often 
enough had he tried to reach those lips against her con- 
sent — often had he said gaily that her mouth and breath 
tasted of the butter and eggs and milk and honey on which 
she mainly lived, that he drew sustenance from them, and 
other follies of that sort. But he did not care for them now. 



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He observed her sudden shrinking, and said gently — 

'You know, I have to think of a course. It was impera- 
tive that we should stay together a little while, to avoid the 
scandal to you that would have resulted from our immedi- 
ate parting. But you must see it is only for form's sake.' 

'Yes,' said Tess absently. 

He went out, and on his way to the mill stood still, and 
wished for a moment that he had responded yet more kind- 
ly, and kissed her once at least. 

Thus they lived through this despairing day or two; in 
the same house, truly; but more widely apart than before 
they were lovers. It was evident to her that he was, as he 
had said, living with paralyzed activities in his endeavour 
to think of a plan of procedure. She was awe-stricken to 
discover such determination under such apparent flexibil- 
ity. His consistency was, indeed, too cruel. She no longer 
expected forgiveness now. More than once she thought of 
going away from him during his absence at the mill; but 
she feared that this, instead of benefiting him, might be the 
means of hampering and humiliating him yet more if it 
should become known. 

Meanwhile Clare was meditating, verily. His thought 
had been unsuspended; he was becoming ill with thinking; 
eaten out with thinking, withered by thinking; scourged 
out of all his former pulsating, flexuous domesticity. He 
walked about saying to himself, 'What's to be done — what's 
to be done?' and by chance she overheard him. It caused her 
to break the reserve about their future which had hitherto 
prevailed. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I suppose — you are not going to live with me — long, are 
you, Angel?' she asked, the sunk corners of her mouth be- 
traying how purely mechanical were the means by which 
she retained that expression of chastened calm upon her 
face. 

'I cannot' he said, 'without despising myself, and what is 
worse, perhaps, despising you. I mean, of course, cannot live 
with you in the ordinary sense. At present, whatever I feel, 
I do not despise you. And, let me speak plainly, or you may 
not see all my difficulties. How can we live together while 
that man lives? — he being your husband in nature, and not 
I. If he were dead it might be different... Besides, that's not 
all the difficulty; it lies in another consideration — one bear- 
ing upon the future of other people than ourselves. Think of 
years to come, and children being born to us, and this past 
matter getting known — for it must get known. There is not 
an uttermost part of the earth but somebody comes from it 
or goes to it from elsewhere. Well, think of wretches of our 
flesh and blood growing up under a taunt which they will 
gradually get to feel the full force of with their expanding 
years. What an awakening for them! What a prospect! Can 
you honestly say 'Remain' after contemplating this contin- 
gency? Don't you think we had better endure the ills we 
have than fly to others?' 

Her eyelids, weighted with trouble, continued drooping 
as before. 

'I cannot say 'Remain," she answered, 'I cannot; I had not 
thought so far.' 

Tess's feminine hope — shall we confess it? — had been 



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so obstinately recuperative as to revive in her surreptitious 
visions of a domiciliary intimacy continued long enough 
to break down his coldness even against his judgement. 
Though unsophisticated in the usual sense, she was not 
incomplete; and it would have denoted deficiency of woman- 
hood if she had not instinctively known what an argument 
lies in propinquity. Nothing else would serve her, she knew, 
if this failed. It was wrong to hope in what was of the na- 
ture of strategy, she said to herself: yet that sort of hope she 
could not extinguish. His last representation had now been 
made, and it was, as she said, a new view. She had truly nev- 
er thought so far as that, and his lucid picture of possible 
offspring who would scorn her was one that brought deadly 
convictions to an honest heart which was humanitarian to 
its centre. Sheer experience had already taught her that in 
some circumstances there was one thing better than to lead 
a good life, and that was to be saved from leading any life 
whatever. Like all who have been previsioned by suffering, 
she could, in the words of M. Sully-Prudhomme, hear a pe- 
nal sentence in the fiat, 'You shall be born,' particularly if 
addressed to potential issue of hers. 

Yet such is the vulpine slyness of Dame Nature, that, till 
now, Tess had been hoodwinked by her love for Clare into 
forgetting it might result in vitalizations that would inflict 
upon others what she had bewailed as misfortune to her- 
self. 

She therefore could not withstand his argument. But 
with the self- combating proclivity of the supersensitive, an 
answer thereto arose in Clare's own mind, and he almost 



.556 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



feared it. It was based on her exceptional physical nature; 
and she might have used it promisingly. She might have add- 
ed besides: 'On an Australian upland or Texan plain, who is 
to know or care about my misfortunes, or to reproach me 
or you?' Yet, like the majority of women, she accepted the 
momentary presentment as if it were the inevitable. And she 
may have been right. The intuitive heart of woman knoweth 
not only its own bitterness, but its husband's, and even if 
these assumed reproaches were not likely to be addressed to 
him or to his by strangers, they might have reached his ears 
from his own fastidious brain. 

It was the third day of the estrangement. Some might risk 
the odd paradox that with more animalism he would have 
been the nobler man. We do not say it. Yet Clare's love was 
doubtless ethereal to a fault, imaginative to impracticabil- 
ity. With these natures, corporal presence is something less 
appealing than corporal absence; the latter creating an ideal 
presence that conveniently drops the defects of the real. She 
found that her personality did not plead her cause so forc- 
ibly as she had anticipated. The figurative phrase was true: 
she was another woman than the one who had excited his 
desire. 

'I have thought over what you say' she remarked to him, 
moving her forefinger over the tablecloth, her other hand, 
which bore the ring that mocked them both, supporting her 
forehead. 'It is quite true, all of it; it must be. You must go 
away from me.' 

'But what can you do?' 

'I can go home.' 



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Clare had not thought of that. 

'Are you sure?' he inquired. 

'Quite sure. We ought to part, and we may as well get 
it past and done. You once said that I was apt to win men 
against their better judgement; and if I am constantly be- 
fore your eyes I may cause you to change your plans in 
opposition to your reason and wish; and afterwards your 
repentance and my sorrow will be terrible.' 

'And you would like to go home?' he asked. 

'I want to leave you, and go home.' 

'Then it shall be so.' 

Though she did not look up at him, she started. There 
was a difference between the proposition and the covenant, 
which she had felt only too quickly. 

T feared it would come to this,' she murmured, her coun- 
tenance meekly fixed. T don't complain, Angel, I — I think 
it best. What you said has quite convinced me. Yes, though 
nobody else should reproach me if we should stay together, 
yet somewhen, years hence, you might get angry with me 
for any ordinary matter, and knowing what you do of my 
bygones, you yourself might be tempted to say words, and 
they might be overheard, perhaps by my own children. O, 
what only hurts me now would torture and kill me then! I 
will go — to-morrow.' 

And I shall not stay here. Though I didn't like to initiate 
it, I have seen that it was advisable we should part — at least 
for a while, till I can better see the shape that things have 
taken, and can write to you.' 

Tess stole a glance at her husband. He was pale, even 



358 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



tremulous; but, as before, she was appalled by the determi- 
nation revealed in the depths of this gentle being she had 
married — the will to subdue the grosser to the subtler emo- 
tion, the substance to the conception, the flesh to the spirit. 
Propensities, tendencies, habits, were as dead leaves upon 
the tyrannous wind of his imaginative ascendency. 
He may have observed her look, for he explained — 
T think of people more kindly when I am away from 
them"; adding cynically, 'God knows; perhaps we will shake 
down together some day, for weariness; thousands have 
done it!' 

That day he began to pack up, and she went upstairs and 
began to pack also. Both knew that it was in their two minds 
that they might part the next morning for ever, despite the 
gloss of assuaging conjectures thrown over their proceeding 
because they were of the sort to whom any parting which has 
an air of finality is a torture. He knew, and she knew, that, 
though the fascination which each had exercised over the 
other — on her part independently of accomplishments — 
would probably in the first days of their separation be even 
more potent than ever, time must attenuate that effect; the 
practical arguments against accepting her as a housemate 
might pronounce themselves more strongly in the boreal 
light of a remoter view. Moreover, when two people are once 
parted — have abandoned a common domicile and a com- 
mon environment — new growths insensibly bud upward to 
fill each vacated place; unforeseen accidents hinder inten- 
tions, and old plans are forgotten. 



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XXXVII 



Midnight came and passed silently, for there was nothing 
to announce it in the Valley of the Froom. 

Not long after one o'clock there was a slight creak in the 
darkened farmhouse once the mansion of the d'Urbervilles. 
Tess, who used the upper chamber, heard it and awoke. It 
had come from the corner step of the staircase, which, as 
usual, was loosely nailed. She saw the door of her bedroom 
open, and the figure of her husband crossed the stream of 
moonlight with a curiously careful tread. He was in his shirt 
and trousers only, and her first flush of joy died when she 
perceived that his eyes were fixed in an unnatural stare on 
vacancy. When he reached the middle of the room he stood 
still and murmured in tones of indescribable sadness — 

'Dead! dead! dead!' 

Under the influence of any strongly- disturbing force, 
Clare would occasionally walk in his sleep, and even per- 
form strange feats, such as he had done on the night of their 
return from market just before their marriage, when he re- 
enacted in his bedroom his combat with the man who had 
insulted her. Tess saw that continued mental distress had 
wrought him into that somnambulistic state now. 

Her loyal confidence in him lay so deep down in her 
heart, that, awake or asleep, he inspired her with no sort of 
personal fear. If he had entered with a pistol in his hand he 



360 



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would scarcely have disturbed her trust in his protective - 
ness. 

Clare came close, and bent over her. 'Dead, dead, dead!' 
he murmured. 

After fixedly regarding her for some moments with the 
same gaze of unmeasurable woe, he bent lower, enclosed 
her in his arms, and rolled her in the sheet as in a shroud. 
Then lifting her from the bed with as much respect as one 
would show to a dead body, he carried her across the room, 
murmuring — 

'My poor, poor Tess — my dearest, darling Tess! So sweet, 
so good, so true!' 

The words of endearment, withheld so severely in his 
waking hours, were inexpressibly sweet to her forlorn and 
hungry heart. If it had been to save her weary life she would 
not, by moving or struggling, have put an end to the posi- 
tion she found herself in. Thus she lay in absolute stillness, 
scarcely venturing to breathe, and, wondering what he was 
going to do with her, suffered herself to be borne out upon 
the landing. 

'My wife — dead, dead!' he said. 

He paused in his labours for a moment to lean with her 
against the banister. Was he going to throw her down? Self- 
solicitude was near extinction in her, and in the knowledge 
that he had planned to depart on the morrow, possibly for 
always, she lay in his arms in this precarious position with a 
sense rather of luxury than of terror. If they could only fall 
together, and both be dashed to pieces, how fit, how desir- 
able. 



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361 



However, he did not let her fall, but took advantage of the 
support of the handrail to imprint a kiss upon her lips — lips 
in the day-time scorned. Then he clasped her with a renewed 
firmness of hold, and descended the staircase. The creak of 
the loose stair did not awaken him, and they reached the 
ground-floor safely. Freeing one of his hands from his grasp 
of her for a moment, he slid back the door-bar and passed 
out, slightly striking his stockinged toe against the edge 
of the door. But this he seemed not to mind, and, having 
room for extension in the open air, he lifted her against his 
shoulder, so that he could carry her with ease, the absence 
of clothes taking much from his burden. Thus he bore her 
off the premises in the direction of the river a few yards dis- 
tant. 

His ultimate intention, if he had any, she had not yet di- 
vined; and she found herself conjecturing on the matter as 
a third person might have done. So easefully had she deliv- 
ered her whole being up to him that it pleased her to think 
he was regarding her as his absolute possession, to dispose 
of as he should choose. It was consoling, under the hovering 
terror of to-morrow's separation, to feel that he really recog- 
nized her now as his wife Tess, and did not cast her off, even 
if in that recognition he went so far as to arrogate to himself 
the right of harming her. 

Ah! now she knew what he was dreaming of — that Sun- 
day morning when he had borne her along through the 
water with the other dairymaids, who had loved him near- 
ly as much as she, if that were possible, which Tess could 
hardly admit. Clare did not cross the bridge with her, but 



362 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



proceeding several paces on the same side towards the ad- 
joining mill, at length stood still on the brink of the river. 

Its waters, in creeping down these miles of meadowland, 
frequently divided, serpentining in purposeless curves, 
looping themselves around little islands that had no name, 
returning and re-embodying themselves as a broad main 
stream further on. Opposite the spot to which he had 
brought her was such a general confluence, and the river 
was proportionately voluminous and deep. Across it was a 
narrow foot-bridge; but now the autumn flood had washed 
the handrail away, leaving the bare plank only, which, ly- 
ing a few inches above the speeding current, formed a giddy 
pathway for even steady heads; and Tess had noticed from 
the window of the house in the day-time young men walk- 
ing across upon it as a feat in balancing. Her husband had 
possibly observed the same performance; anyhow, he now 
mounted the plank, and, sliding one foot forward, advanced 
along it. 

Was he going to drown her? Probably he was. The spot 
was lonely, the river deep and wide enough to make such a 
purpose easy of accomplishment. He might drown her if he 
would; it would be better than parting to-morrow to lead 
severed lives. 

The swift stream raced and gyrated under them, tossing, 
distorting, and splitting the moon's reflected face. Spots of 
froth travelled past, and intercepted weeds waved behind the 
piles. If they could both fall together into the current now, 
their arms would be so tightly clasped together that they 
could not be saved; they would go out of the world almost 



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}6i 



painlessly, and there would be no more reproach to her, or 
to him for marrying her. His last half-hour with her would 
have been a loving one, while if they lived till he awoke, his 
day-time aversion would return, and this hour would re- 
main to be contemplated only as a transient dream. 

The impulse stirred in her, yet she dared not indulge it, to 
make a movement that would have precipitated them both 
into the gulf. How she valued her own life had been proved; 
but his — she had no right to tamper with it. He reached the 
other side with her in safety. 

Here they were within a plantation which formed the 
Abbey grounds, and taking a new hold of her he went on- 
ward a few steps till they reached the ruined choir of the 
Abbey-church. Against the north wall was the empty stone 
coffin of an abbot, in which every tourist with a turn for 
grim humour was accustomed to stretch himself. In this 
Clare carefully laid Tess. Having kissed her lips a second 
time he breathed deeply, as if a greatly desired end were at- 
tained. Clare then lay down on the ground alongside, when 
he immediately fell into the deep dead slumber of exhaus- 
tion, and remained motionless as a log. The spurt of mental 
excitement which had produced the effort was now over. 

Tess sat up in the coffin. The night, though dry and mild 
for the season, was more than sufficiently cold to make it 
dangerous for him to remain here long, in his half-clothed 
state. If he were left to himself he would in all probability 
stay there till the morning, and be chilled to certain death. 
She had heard of such deaths after sleep-walking. But how 
could she dare to awaken him, and let him know what he 



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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



had been doing, when it would mortify him to discover his 
folly in respect of her? Tess, however, stepping out of her 
stone confine, shook him slightly, but was unable to arouse 
him without being violent. It was indispensable to do some- 
thing, for she was beginning to shiver, the sheet being but a 
poor protection. Her excitement had in a measure kept her 
warm during the few minutes' adventure; but that beatific 
interval was over. 

It suddenly occurred to her to try persuasion; and ac- 
cordingly she whispered in his ear, with as much firmness 
and decision as she could summon — 

'Let us walk on, darling,' at the same time taking him 
suggestively by the arm. To her relief, he unresistingly ac- 
quiesced; her words had apparently thrown him back into 
his dream, which thenceforward seemed to enter on a new 
phase, wherein he fancied she had risen as a spirit, and was 
leading him to Heaven. Thus she conducted him by the 
arm to the stone bridge in front of their residence, crossing 
which they stood at the manor-house door. Tess's feet were 
quite bare, and the stones hurt her, and chilled her to the 
bone; but Clare was in his woollen stockings, and appeared 
to feel no discomfort. 

There was no further difficulty. She induced him to lie 
down on his own sofa bed, and covered him up warmly, 
lighting a temporary fire of wood, to dry any dampness 
out of him. The noise of these attentions she thought might 
awaken him, and secretly wished that they might. But the 
exhaustion of his mind and body was such that he remained 
undisturbed. 



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365 



As soon as they met the next morning Tess divined 
that Angel knew little or nothing of how far she had been 
concerned in the night's excursion, though, as regarded 
himself, he may have been aware that he had not lain still. 
In truth, he had awakened that morning from a sleep deep 
as annihilation; and during those first few moments in 
which the brain, like a Samson shaking himself, is trying its 
strength, he had some dim notion of an unusual nocturnal 
proceeding. But the realities of his situation soon displaced 
conjecture on the other subject. 

He waited in expectancy to discern some mental 
pointing; he knew that if any intention of his, concluded 
over-night, did not vanish in the light of morning, it stood 
on a basis approximating to one of pure reason, even if ini- 
tiated by impulse of feeling; that it was so far, therefore, to 
be trusted. He thus beheld in the pale morning light the 
resolve to separate from her; not as a hot and indignant in- 
stinct, but denuded of the passionateness which had made it 
scorch and burn; standing in its bones; nothing but a skel- 
eton, but none the less there. Clare no longer hesitated. 

At breakfast, and while they were packing the few re- 
maining articles, he showed his weariness from the night's 
effort so unmistakeably that Tess was on the point of reveal- 
ing all that had happened; but the reflection that it would 
anger him, grieve him, stultify him, to know that he had 
instinctively manifested a fondness for her of which his 
common-sense did not approve, that his inclination had 
compromised his dignity when reason slept, again deterred 
her. It was too much like laughing at a man when sober for 



366 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



his erratic deeds during intoxication. 

It just crossed her mind, too, that he might have a faint 
recollection of his tender vagary, and was disinclined to al- 
lude to it from a conviction that she would take amatory 
advantage of the opportunity it gave her of appealing to him 
anew not to go. 

He had ordered by letter a vehicle from the nearest 
town, and soon after breakfast it arrived. She saw in it the 
beginning of the end — the temporary end, at least, for the 
revelation of his tenderness by the incident of the night 
raised dreams of a possible future with him. The luggage 
was put on the top, and the man drove them off, the mill- 
er and the old waiting-woman expressing some surprise at 
their precipitate departure, which Clare attributed to his 
discovery that the mill-work was not of the modern kind 
which he wished to investigate, a statement that was true so 
far as it went. Beyond this there was nothing in the manner 
of their leaving to suggest a fiasco, or that they were not go- 
ing together to visit friends. 

Their route lay near the dairy from which they had start- 
ed with such solemn joy in each other a few days back, and 
as Clare wished to wind up his business with Mr Crick, Tess 
could hardly avoid paying Mrs Crick a call at the same time, 
unless she would excite suspicion of their unhappy state. 

To make the call as unobtrusive as possible, they left the 
carriage by the wicket leading down from the high road to 
the dairy-house, and descended the track on foot, side by 
side. The withy-bed had been cut, and they could see over 
the stumps the spot to which Clare had followed her when 



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367 



he pressed her to be his wife; to the left the enclosure in 
which she had been fascinated by his harp; and far away 
behind the cow-stalls the mead which had been the scene 
of their first embrace. The gold of the summer picture was 
now gray the colours mean, the rich soil mud, and the river 
cold. 

Over the barton-gate the dairyman saw them, and 
came forward, throwing into his face the kind of jocularity 
deemed appropriate in Talbothays and its vicinity on the re- 
appearance of the newly-married. Then Mrs Crick emerged 
from the house, and several others of their old acquain- 
tance, though Marian and Retty did not seem to be there. 

Tess valiantly bore their sly attacks and friendly humours, 
which affected her far otherwise than they supposed. In the 
tacit agreement of husband and wife to keep their estrange- 
ment a secret they behaved as would have been ordinary. 
And then, although she would rather there had been no 
word spoken on the subject, Tess had to hear in detail the 
story of Marian and Retty. The later had gone home to her 
father's, and Marian had left to look for employment else- 
where. They feared she would come to no good. 

To dissipate the sadness of this recital Tess went and bade 
all her favourite cows goodbye, touching each of them with 
her hand, and as she and Clare stood side by side at leaving, 
as if united body and soul, there would have been some- 
thing peculiarly sorry in their aspect to one who should 
have seen it truly; two limbs of one life, as they outwardly 
were, his arm touching hers, her skirts touching him, facing 
one way, as against all the dairy facing the other, speaking 



jflS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



in their adieux as 'we', and yet sundered like the poles. Per- 
haps something unusually stiff and embarrassed in their 
attitude, some awkwardness in acting up to their profession 
of unity, different from the natural shyness of young cou- 
ples, may have been apparent, for when they were gone Mrs 
Crick said to her husband — 

'How onnatural the brightness of her eyes did seem, and 
how they stood like waxen images and talked as if they were 
in a dream! Didn't it strike 'ee that 'twas so? Tess had al- 
ways sommat strange in her, and she's not now quite like the 
proud young bride of a well-be-doing man.' 

They re-entered the vehicle, and were driven along the 
roads towards Weatherbury and Stagfoot Lane, till they 
reached the Lane inn, where Clare dismissed the fly and 
man. They rested here a while, and entering the Vale were 
next driven onward towards her home by a stranger who 
did not know their relations. At a midway point, when Nut- 
tlebury had been passed, and where there were cross-roads, 
Clare stopped the conveyance and said to Tess that if she 
meant to return to her mother's house it was here that he 
would leave her. As they could not talk with freedom in the 
driver's presence he asked her to accompany him for a few 
steps on foot along one of the branch roads; she assented, 
and directing the man to wait a few minutes they strolled 
away. 

'Now, let us understand each other,' he said gently. 'There 
is no anger between us, though there is that which I cannot 
endure at present. I will try to bring myself to endure it. I 
will let you know where I go to as soon as I know myself. 



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.!<«> 



And if I can bring myself to bear it — if it is desirable, pos- 
sible — I will come to you. But until I come to you it will be 
better that you should not try to come to me.' 

The severity of the decree seemed deadly to Tess; she saw 
his view of her clearly enough; he could regard her in no 
other light than that of one who had practised gross deceit 
upon him. Yet could a woman who had done even what she 
had done deserve all this? But she could contest the point 
with him no further. She simply repeated after him his own 
words. 

'Until you come to me I must not try to come to you?' 

'Just so.' 

'May I write to you?' 

'O yes — if you are ill, or want anything at all. I hope that 
will not be the case; so that it may happen that I write first 
to you.' 

'I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best 
what my punishment ought to be; only — only — don't make 
it more than I can bear!' 

That was all she said on the matter. If Tess had been art- 
ful, had she made a scene, fainted, wept hysterically, in that 
lonely lane, notwithstanding the fury of fastidiousness with 
which he was possessed, he would probably not have with- 
stood her. But her mood of long-suffering made his way easy 
for him, and she herself was his best advocate. Pride, too, 
entered into her submission — which perhaps was a symp- 
tom of that reckless acquiescence in chance too apparent 
in the whole d'Urberville family — and the many effective 
chords which she could have stirred by an appeal were left 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



untouched. 

The remainder of their discourse was on practical matters 
only. He now handed her a packet containing a fairly good 
sum of money, which he had obtained from his bankers for 
the purpose. The brilliants, the interest in which seemed to 
be Tess's for her life only (if he understood the wording of 
the will), he advised her to let him send to a bank for safety; 
and to this she readily agreed. 

These things arranged, he walked with Tess back to 
the carriage, and handed her in. The coachman was paid 
and told where to drive her. Taking next his own bag and 
umbrella — the sole articles he had brought with him hith- 
erwards — he bade her goodbye; and they parted there and 
then. 

The fly moved creepingly up a hill, and Clare watched it 
go with an unpremeditated hope that Tess would look out 
of the window for one moment. But that she never thought 
of doing, would not have ventured to do, lying in a half- 
dead faint inside. Thus he beheld her recede, and in the 
anguish of his heart quoted a line from a poet, with peculiar 
emendations of his own — 

God's NOT in his heaven: 
All's WRONG with the world! 

When Tess had passed over the crest of the hill he turned 
to go his own way, and hardly knew that he loved her still. 



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XXXVIII 



As she drove on through Blackmoor Vale, and the land- 
scape of her youth began to open around her, Tess aroused 
herself from her stupor. Her first thought was how would 
she be able to face her parents? 

She reached a turnpike-gate which stood upon the high- 
way to the village. It was thrown open by a stranger, not by 
the old man who had kept it for many years, and to whom 
she had been known; he had probably left on New Year's 
Day, the date when such changes were made. Having re- 
ceived no intelligence lately from her home, she asked the 
turnpike-keeper for news. 

'Oh — nothing, miss,' he answered. 'Marlott is Marlott 
still. Folks have died and that. John Durbeyfield, too, hev 
had a daughter married this week to a gentleman -farmer; 
not from John's own house, you know; they was married 
elsewhere; the gentleman being of that high standing that 
John's own folk was not considered well-be-doing enough 
to have any part in it, the bridegroom seeming not to know 
how't have been discovered that John is a old and ancient 
nobleman himself by blood, with family skillentons in their 
own vaults to this day, but done out of his property in the 
time o' the Romans. However, Sir John, as we call 'n now, 
kept up the wedding-day as well as he could, and stood treat 
to everybody in the parish; and John's wife sung songs at 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



The Pure Drop till past eleven o'clock.' 

Hearing this, Tess felt so sick at heart that she could not 
decide to go home publicly in the fly with her luggage and 
belongings. She asked the turnpike-keeper if she might de- 
posit her things at his house for a while, and, on his offering 
no objection, she dismissed her carriage, and went on to the 
village alone by a back lane. 

At sight of her father's chimney she asked herself how 
she could possibly enter the house? Inside that cottage her 
relations were calmly supposing her far away on a wedding- 
tour with a comparatively rich man, who was to conduct 
her to bouncing prosperity; while here she was, friendless, 
creeping up to the old door quite by herself, with no better 
place to go to in the world. 

She did not reach the house unobserved. Just by the gar- 
den-hedge she was met by a girl who knew her — one of the 
two or three with whom she had been intimate at school. 
After making a few inquiries as to how Tess came there, her 
friend, unheeding her tragic look, interrupted with — 

'But where's thy gentleman, Tess?' 

Tess hastily explained that he had been called away on 
business, and, leaving her interlocutor, clambered over the 
garden-hedge, and thus made her way to the house. 

As she went up the garden-path she heard her moth- 
er singing by the back door, coming in sight of which she 
perceived Mrs Durbeyfield on the doorstep in the act of 
wringing a sheet. Having performed this without observing 
Tess, she went indoors, and her daughter followed her. 

The washing-tub stood in the same old place on the same 



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old quarter-hogshead, and her mother, having thrown the 
sheet aside, was about to plunge her arms in anew. 

'Why — Tess! — my chil' — I thought you was married! — 
married really and truly this time — we sent the cider — ' 

'Yes, mother; so I am.' 

'Going to be?' 

'No — I am married.' 

'Married! Then where 's thy husband?' 

'Oh, he's gone away for a time.' 

'Gone away! When was you married, then? The day you 
said?' 

'Yes, Tuesday, mother.' 

'And now 'tis on'y Saturday, and he gone away?' 

'Yes, he's gone.' 

What's the meaning o' that? 'Nation seize such husbands 
as you seem to get, say I!' 

'Mother!' Tess went across to Joan Durbeyfield, laid her 
face upon the matron's bosom, and burst into sobs. 'I don't 
know how to tell 'ee, mother! You said to me, and wrote to 
me, that I was not to tell him. But I did tell him — I couldn't 
help it — and he went away!' 

'O you little fool — you little fool!' burst out Mrs Durbey- 
field, splashing Tess and herself in her agitation. 'My good 
God! that ever I should ha' lived to say it, but I say it again, 
you little fool!' 

Tess was convulsed with weeping, the tension of so many 
days having relaxed at last. 

'I know it — I know — I know!' she gasped through her 
sobs. 'But, O my mother, I could not help it! He was so 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



good — and I felt the wickedness of trying to blind him as 
to what had happened! If — if — it were to be done again — I 
should do the same. I could not — I dared not — so sin — 
against him!' 

'But you sinned enough to marry him first!' 

'Yes, yes; that's where my misery do lie! But I thought he 
could get rid o' me by law if he were determined not to over- 
look it. And O, if you knew — if you could only half know 
how I loved him — how anxious I was to have him — and how 
wrung I was between caring so much for him and my wish 
to be fair to him!' 

Tess was so shaken that she could get no further, and 
sank, a helpless thing, into a chair. 

'Well, well; what's done can't be undone! I'm sure I don't 
know why children o' my bringing forth should all be bigger 
simpletons than other people's — not to know better than to 
blab such a thing as that, when he couldn't ha' found it out 
till too late!' Here Mrs Durbeyfield began shedding tears on 
her own account as a mother to be pitied. 'What your father 
will say I don't know,' she continued; 'for he's been talking 
about the wedding up at Rolliver's and The Pure Drop every 
day since, and about his family getting back to their right- 
ful position through you — poor silly man! — and now you've 
made this mess of it! The Lord-a-Lord!' 

As if to bring matters to a focus, Tess's father was heard 
approaching at that moment. He did not, however, en- 
ter immediately, and Mrs Durbeyfield said that she would 
break the bad news to him herself, Tess keeping out of sight 
for the present. After her first burst of disappointment Joan 



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began to take the mishap as she had taken Tess's original 
trouble, as she would have taken a wet holiday or failure in 
the potato-crop; as a thing which had come upon them ir- 
respective of desert or folly; a chance external impingement 
to be borne with; not a lesson. 

Tess retreated upstairs and beheld casually that the beds 
had been shifted, and new arrangements made. Her old bed 
had been adapted for two younger children. There was no 
place here for her now. 

The room below being unceiled she could hear most of 
what went on there. Presently her father entered, apparently 
carrying in a live hen. He was a foot-haggler now, having 
been obliged to sell his second horse, and he travelled with 
his basket on his arm. The hen had been carried about this 
morning as it was often carried, to show people that he was 
in his work, though it had lain, with its legs tied, under the 
table at Rolliver's for more than an hour. 

'We've just had up a story about — ' Durbeyfield began, 
and thereupon related in detail to his wife a discussion 
which had arisen at the inn about the clergy, originated by 
the fact of his daughter having married into a clerical fam- 
ily. 'They was formerly styled 'sir', like my own ancestry' he 
said, 'though nowadays their true style, strictly speaking, 
is 'clerk' only' As Tess had wished that no great publicity 
should be given to the event, he had mentioned no partic- 
ulars. He hoped she would remove that prohibition soon. 
He proposed that the couple should take Tess's own name, 
d'Urberville, as uncorrupted. It was better than her hus- 
bands's. He asked if any letter had come from her that day. 



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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Then Mrs Durbeyfield informed him that no letter had 
come, but Tess unfortunately had come herself. 

When at length the collapse was explained to him, a sul- 
len mortification, not usual with Durbeyfield, overpowered 
the influence of the cheering glass. Yet the intrinsic qual- 
ity of the event moved his touchy sensitiveness less than its 
conjectured effect upon the minds of others. 

'To think, now, that this was to be the end o't!' said Sir 
John. 'And I with a family vault under that there church of 
Kingsbere as big as Squire Jollard's ale-cellar, and my folk 
lying there in sixes and sevens, as genuine county bones 
and marrow as any recorded in history. And now to be sure 
what they fellers at Rolliver's and The Pure Drop will say 
to me! How they'll squint and glane, and say, 'This is yer 
mighty match is it; this is yer getting back to the true level 
of yer forefathers in King Norman's time!' I feel this is too 
much, Joan; I shall put an end to myself, title and all — I can 
bear it no longer! ... But she can make him keep her if he's 
married her?' 

'Why, yes. But she won't think o' doing that.' 

'D'ye think he really have married her? — or is it like the 
first — ' 

Poor Tess, who had heard as far as this, could not bear to 
hear more. The perception that her word could be doubted 
even here, in her own parental house, set her mind against 
the spot as nothing else could have done. How unexpected 
were the attacks of destiny! And if her father doubted her 
a little, would not neighbours and acquaintance doubt her 
much? O, she could not live long at home! 



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A few days, accordingly, were all that she allowed her- 
self here, at the end of which time she received a short note 
from Clare, informing her that he had gone to the North of 
England to look at a farm. In her craving for the lustre of 
her true position as his wife, and to hide from her parents 
the vast extent of the division between them, she made use 
of this letter as her reason for again departing, leaving them 
under the impression that she was setting out to join him. 
Still further to screen her husband from any imputation of 
unkindness to her, she took twenty- five of the fifty pounds 
Clare had given her, and handed the sum over to her mother, 
as if the wife of a man like Angel Clare could well afford it, 
saying that it was a slight return for the trouble and humili- 
ation she had brought upon them in years past. With this 
assertion of her dignity she bade them farewell; and after 
that there were lively doings in the Durbeyfield household 
for some time on the strength of Tess's bounty, her mother 
saying, and, indeed, believing, that the rupture which had 
arisen between the young husband and wife had adjusted it- 
self under their strong feeling that they could not live apart 
from each other. 



378 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XXXIX 



It was three weeks after the marriage that Clare found 
himself descending the hill which led to the well-known 
parsonage of his father. With his downward course the tow- 
er of the church rose into the evening sky in a manner of 
inquiry as to why he had come; and no living person in the 
twilighted town seemed to notice him, still less to expect 
him. He was arriving like a ghost, and the sound of his own 
footsteps was almost an encumbrance to be got rid of. 

The picture of life had changed for him. Before this 
time he had known it but speculatively; now he thought he 
knew it as a practical man; though perhaps he did not, even 
yet. Nevertheless humanity stood before him no longer in 
the pensive sweetness of Italian art, but in the staring and 
ghastly attitudes of a Wiertz Museum, and with the leer of 
a study by Van Beers. 

His conduct during these first weeks had been desultory 
beyond description. After mechanically attempting to pur- 
sue his agricultural plans as though nothing unusual had 
happened, in the manner recommended by the great and 
wise men of all ages, he concluded that very few of those 
great and wise men had ever gone so far outside themselves 
as to test the feasibility of their counsel. "This is the chief 
thing: be not perturbed,' said the Pagan moralist. That was 
just Clare's own opinion. But he was perturbed. 'Let not 



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your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,' said the Naz- 
arene. Clare chimed in cordially; but his heart was troubled 
all the same. How he would have liked to confront those 
two great thinkers, and earnestly appeal to them as fellow- 
man to fellow-men, and ask them to tell him their method! 

His mood transmuted itself into a dogged indifference 
till at length he fancied he was looking on his own existence 
with the passive interest of an outsider. 

He was embittered by the conviction that all this deso- 
lation had been brought about by the accident of her being 
a d'Urberville. When he found that Tess came of that ex- 
hausted ancient line, and was not of the new tribes from 
below, as he had fondly dreamed, why had he not stoically 
abandoned her in fidelity to his principles? This was what he 
had got by apostasy, and his punishment was deserved. 

Then he became weary and anxious, and his anxiety in- 
creased. He wondered if he had treated her unfairly. He ate 
without knowing that he ate, and drank without tasting. As 
the hours dropped past, as the motive of each act in the long 
series of bygone days presented itself to his view, he per- 
ceived how intimately the notion of having Tess as a dear 
possession was mixed up with all his schemes and words 
and ways. 

In going hither and thither he observed in the outskirts 
of a small town a red-and-blue placard setting forth the 
great advantages of the Empire of Brazil as a field for the 
emigrating agriculturist. Land was offered there on excep- 
tionally advantageous terms. Brazil somewhat attracted 
him as a new idea. Tess could eventually join him there, and 



.; So 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



perhaps in that country of contrasting scenes and notions 
and habits the conventions would not be so operative which 
made life with her seem impracticable to him here. In brief 
he was strongly inclined to try Brazil, especially as the sea- 
son for going thither was just at hand. 

With this view he was returning to Emminster to disclose 
his plan to his parents, and to make the best explanation 
he could make of arriving without Tess, short of revealing 
what had actually separated them. As he reached the door 
the new moon shone upon his face, just as the old one had 
done in the small hours of that morning when he had car- 
ried his wife in his arms across the river to the graveyard of 
the monks; but his face was thinner now. 

Clare had given his parents no warning of his visit, and 
his arrival stirred the atmosphere of the Vicarage as the dive 
of the kingfisher stirs a quiet pool. His father and mother 
were both in the drawing-room, but neither of his brothers 
was now at home. Angel entered, and closed the door qui- 
etly behind him. 

'But — where's your wife, dear Angel?' cried his mother. 
'How you surprise us!' 

'She is at her mother's — temporarily. I have come home 
rather in a hurry because I've decided to go to Brazil.' 

'Brazil! Why they are all Roman Catholics there surely!' 

Are they? I hadn't thought of that.' 

But even the novelty and painfulness of his going to a Pa- 
pistical land could not displace for long Mr and Mrs Clare's 
natural interest in their son's marriage. 

'We had your brief note three weeks ago announcing 



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381 



that it had taken place,' said Mrs Clare, 'and your father 
sent your godmother's gift to her, as you know. Of course it 
was best that none of us should be present, especially as you 
preferred to marry her from the dairy, and not at her home, 
wherever that may be. It would have embarrassed you, and 
given us no pleasure. Your bothers felt that very strongly. 
Now it is done we do not complain, particularly if she suits 
you for the business you have chosen to follow instead of the 
ministry of the Gospel. ... Yet I wish I could have seen her 
first, Angel, or have known a little more about her. We sent 
her no present of our own, not knowing what would best 
give her pleasure, but you must suppose it only delayed. An- 
gel, there is no irritation in my mind or your father's against 
you for this marriage; but we have thought it much better to 
reserve our liking for your wife till we could see her. And 
now you have not brought her. It seems strange. What has 
happened?' 

He replied that it had been thought best by them that 
she should to go her parents' home for the present, whilst 
he came there. 

'I don't mind telling you, dear mother,' he said, 'that I al- 
ways meant to keep her away from this house till I should 
feel she could some with credit to you. But this idea of Brazil 
is quite a recent one. If I do go it will be unadvisable for me 
to take her on this my first journey. She will remain at her 
mother's till I come back.' 

And I shall not see her before you start?' 

He was afraid they would not. His original plan had 
been, as he had said, to refrain from bringing her there for 



382 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



some little while — not to wound their prejudices — feel- 
ings — in any way; and for other reasons he had adhered to 
it. He would have to visit home in the course of a year, if he 
went out at once; and it would be possible for them to see 
her before he started a second time — with her. 

A hastily prepared supper was brought in, and Clare 
made further exposition of his plans. His mother's disap- 
pointment at not seeing the bride still remained with her. 
Clare's late enthusiasm for Tess had infected her through 
her maternal sympathies, till she had almost fancied that a 
good thing could come out of Nazareth — a charming wom- 
an out of Talbothays Dairy. She watched her son as he ate. 

'Cannot you describe her? I am sure she is very pretty, 
Angel.' 

'Of that there can be no question!' he said, with a zest 
which covered its bitterness. 

And that she is pure and virtuous goes without ques- 
tion?' 

'Pure and virtuous, of course, she is.' 

'I can see her quite distinctly. You said the other day that 
she was fine in figure; roundly built; had deep red lips like 
Cupid's bow; dark eyelashes and brows, an immense rope of 
hair like a ship's cable; and large eyes violety-bluey-black- 
ish.' 

'I did, mother.' 

'I quite see her. And living in such seclusion she natu- 
rally had scarce ever seen any young man from the world 
without till she saw you.' 

'Scarcely' 



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3»3 



'You were her first love?' 

'Of course.' 

'There are worse wives than these simple, rosy-mouthed, 
robust girls of the farm. Certainly I could have wished — 
well, since my son is to be an agriculturist, it is perhaps but 
proper that his wife should have been accustomed to an out- 
door life.' 

His father was less inquisitive; but when the time came 
for the chapter from the Bible which was always read before 
evening prayers, the Vicar observed to Mrs Clare — 

'I think, since Angel has come, that it will be more appro- 
priate to read the thirty-first of Proverbs than the chapter 
which we should have had in the usual course of our read- 
ing?' 

'Yes, certainly,' said Mrs Clare. 'The words of King Lemu- 
el' (she could cite chapter and verse as well as her husband). 
'My dear son, your father has decided to read us the chapter 
in Proverbs in praise of a virtuous wife. We shall not need 
to be reminded to apply the words to the absent one. May 
Heaven shield her in all her ways!' 

A lump rose in Clare's throat. The portable lectern was 
taken out from the corner and set in the middle of the fire- 
place, the two old servants came in, and Angel's father 
began to read at the tenth verse of the aforesaid chapter — 

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above 
rubies. She riseth while it is yet night, andgiveth meat to 
her household. She girdeth her loins with strength and 
strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise 



384 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



is good; her candle goeth not out by night. She looketh well 
to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of 
idleness. Her children arise up and call her blessed; her 
husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done 
virtuously, but thou excellest them all' 

When prayers were over, his mother said — 

'I could not help thinking how very aptly that chapter 
your dear father read applied, in some of its particulars, to 
the woman you have chosen. The perfect woman, you see, 
was a working woman; not an idler; not a fine lady; but one 
who used her hands and her head and her heart for the good 
of others. 'Her children arise up and call her blessed; her 
husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have 
done virtuously, but she excelleth them all.' Well, I wish I 
could have seen her, Angel. Since she is pure and chaste, she 
would have been refined enough for me.' 

Clare could bear this no longer. His eyes were full of 
tears, which seemed like drops of molten lead. He bade a 
quick good night to these sincere and simple souls whom he 
loved so well; who knew neither the world, the flesh, nor the 
devil in their own hearts, only as something vague and ex- 
ternal to themselves. He went to his own chamber. 

His mother followed him, and tapped at his door. Clare 
opened it to discover her standing without, with anxious 
eyes. 

Angel,' she asked, 'is there something wrong that you go 
away so soon? I am quite sure you are not yourself 

'I am not, quite, mother,' said he. 



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3»5 



'About her? Now, my son, I know it is that — I know it is 
about her! Have you quarrelled in these three weeks?' 

'We have not exactly quarrelled,' he said. 'But we have 
had a difference — ' 

'Angel — is she a young woman whose history will bear 
investigation?' 

With a mother's instinct Mrs Clare had put her finger 
on the kind of trouble that would cause such a disquiet as 
seemed to agitate her son. 

'She is spotless!' he replied; and felt that if it had sent him 
to eternal hell there and then he would have told that lie. 

'Then never mind the rest. After all, there are few pur- 
er things in nature then an unsullied country maid. Any 
crudeness of manner which may offend your more educated 
sense at first, will, I am sure, disappear under the influence 
or your companionship and tuition.' 

Such terrible sarcasm of blind magnanimity brought 
home to Clare the secondary perception that he had utterly 
wrecked his career by this marriage, which had not been 
among his early thoughts after the disclosure. True, on his 
own account he cared very little about his career; but he had 
wished to make it at least a respectable one on account of his 
parents and brothers. And now as he looked into the candle 
its flame dumbly expressed to him that it was made to shine 
on sensible people, and that it abhorred lighting the face of 
a dupe and a failure. 

When his agitation had cooled he would be at moments 
incensed with his poor wife for causing a situation in which 
he was obliged to practise deception on his parents. He al- 



386 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



most talked to her in his anger, as if she had been in the 
room. And then her cooing voice, plaintive in expostula- 
tion, disturbed the darkness, the velvet touch of her lips 
passed over his brow, and he could distinguish in the air the 
warmth of her breath. 

This night the woman of his belittling deprecations was 
thinking how great and good her husband was. But over 
them both there hung a deeper shade than the shade which 
Angel Clare perceived, namely, the shade of his own limi- 
tations. With all his attempted independence of judgement 
this advanced and well-meaning young man, a sample 
product of the last five-and-twenty years, was yet the slave 
to custom and conventionality when surprised back into his 
early teachings. No prophet had told him, and he was not 
prophet enough to tell himself, that essentially this young 
wife of his was as deserving of the praise of King Lemuel 
as any other woman endowed with the same dislike of evil, 
her moral value having to be reckoned not by achievement 
but by tendency. Moreover, the figure near at hand suffers 
on such occasion, because it shows up its sorriness with- 
out shade; while vague figures afar off are honoured, in that 
their distance makes artistic virtues of their stains. In con- 
sidering what Tess was not, he overlooked what she was, and 
forgot that the defective can be more than the entire. 



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387 



XL 



At breakfast Brazil was the topic, and all endeavoured 
to take a hopeful view of Clare's proposed experiment with 
that country's soil, notwithstanding the discouraging re- 
ports of some farm-labourers who had emigrated thither 
and returned home within the twelve months. After break- 
fast Clare went into the little town to wind up such trifling 
matters as he was concerned with there, and to get from the 
local bank all the money he possessed. On his way back he 
encountered Miss Mercy Chant by the church, from whose 
walls she seemed to be a sort of emanation. She was car- 
rying an armful of Bibles for her class, and such was her 
view of life that events which produced heartache in oth- 
ers wrought beatific smiles upon her — an enviable result, 
although, in the opinion of Angel, it was obtained by a curi- 
ously unnatural sacrifice of humanity to mysticism. 

She had learnt that he was about to leave England, and 
observed what an excellent and promising scheme it seemed 
to be. 

'Yes; it is a likely scheme enough in a commercial sense, 
no doubt,' he replied. 'But, my dear Mercy, it snaps the con- 
tinuity of existence. Perhaps a cloister would be preferable.' 

A cloister! O, Angel Clare!' 

'Well?' 

'Why, you wicked man, a cloister implies a monk, and a 



;,SS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



monk Roman Catholicism.' 

And Roman Catholicism sin, and sin damnation. Thou 
art in a parlous state, Angel Clare.' 

'I glory in my Protestantism!' she said severely. 

Then Clare, thrown by sheer misery into one of the de- 
moniacal moods in which a man does despite to his true 
principles, called her close to him, and fiendishly whispered 
in her ear the most heterodox ideas he could think of. His 
momentary laughter at the horror which appeared on her 
fair face ceased when it merged in pain and anxiety for his 
welfare. 

'Dear Mercy,' he said, 'you must forgive me. I think I am 
going crazy!' 

She thought that he was; and thus the interview ended, 
and Clare re-entered the Vicarage. With the local banker he 
deposited the jewels till happier days should arise. He also 
paid into the bank thirty pounds — to be sent to Tess in a few 
months, as she might require; and wrote to her at her par- 
ents' home in Blackmoor Vale to inform her of what he had 
done. This amount, with the sum he had already placed in 
her hands — about fifty pounds — he hoped would be amply 
sufficient for her wants just at present, particularly as in an 
emergency she had been directed to apply to his father. 

He deemed it best not to put his parents into commu- 
nication with her by informing them of her address; and, 
being unaware of what had really happened to estrange the 
two, neither his father nor his mother suggested that he 
should do so. During the day he left the parsonage, for what 
he had to complete he wished to get done quickly. 



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389 



As the last duty before leaving this part of England it was 
necessary for him to call at the Wellbridge farmhouse, in 
which he had spent with Tess the first three days of their 
marriage, the trifle of rent having to be paid, the key given 
up of the rooms they had occupied, and two or three small 
articles fetched away that they had left behind. It was un- 
der this roof that the deepest shadow ever thrown upon his 
life had stretched its gloom over him. Yet when he had un- 
locked the door of the sitting-room and looked into it, the 
memory which returned first upon him was that of their 
happy arrival on a similar afternoon, the first fresh sense of 
sharing a habitation conjointly, the first meal together, the 
chatting by the fire with joined hands. 

The farmer and his wife were in the field at the moment 
of his visit, and Clare was in the rooms alone for some time. 
Inwardly swollen with a renewal of sentiment that he had 
not quite reckoned with, he went upstairs to her chamber, 
which had never been his. The bed was smooth as she had 
made it with her own hands on the morning of leaving. 
The mistletoe hung under the tester just as he had placed 
it. Having been there three or four weeks it was turning 
colour, and the leaves and berries were wrinkled. Angel 
took it down and crushed it into the grate. Standing there, 
he for the first time doubted whether his course in this con- 
jecture had been a wise, much less a generous, one. But had 
he not been cruelly blinded? In the incoherent multitude 
of his emotions he knelt down at the bedside wet-eyed. 'O 
Tess! If you had only told me sooner, I would have forgiven 
you!' he mourned. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Hearing a footstep below, he rose and went to the top 
of the stairs. At the bottom of the flight he saw a woman 
standing, and on her turning up her face recognized the 
pale, dark- eyed Izz Huett. 

'Mr Clare,' she said, 'I've called to see you and Mrs Clare, 
and to inquire if ye be well. I thought you might be back 
here again.' 

This was a girl whose secret he had guessed, but who had 
not yet guessed his; an honest girl who loved him — one who 
would have made as good, or nearly as good, a practical 
farmer's wife as Tess. 

'I am here alone,' he said; 'we are not living here now.' 
Explaining why he had come, he asked, 'Which way are you 
going home, Izz?' 

'I have no home at Talbothays Dairy now, sir,' she said. 

'Why is that?' 

Izz looked down. 

'It was so dismal there that I left! I am staying out this 
way.' She pointed in a contrary direction, the direction in 
which he was journeying. 

'Well — are you going there now? I can take you if you 
wish for a lift.' 

Her olive complexion grew richer in hue. 

'Thank 'ee, Mr Clare,' she said. 

He soon found the farmer, and settled the account for 
his rent and the few other items which had to be considered 
by reason of the sudden abandonment of the lodgings. On 
Clare's return to his horse and gig, Izz jumped up beside 
him. 



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'I am going to leave England, Izz,' he said, as they drove 
on. 'Going to Brazil.' 

'And do Mrs Clare like the notion of such a journey?' she 
asked. 

'She is not going at present — say for a year or so. I am go- 
ing out to reconnoitre — to see what life there is like.' 

They sped along eastward for some considerable dis- 
tance, Izz making no observation. 

'How are the others?' he inquired. 'How is Retty?' 

'She was in a sort of nervous state when I zid her last; 
and so thin and hollow-cheeked that 'a do seem in a de- 
cline. Nobody will ever fall in love wi' her any more,' said 
Izz absently. 

'And Marian?' 

Izz lowered her voice. 

'Marian drinks.' 

'Indeed!' 

'Yes. The dairyman has got rid of her.' 

And you!' 

'I don't drink, and I bain't in a decline. But — I am no 
great things at singing afore breakfast now!' 

'How is that? Do you remember how neatly you used 
to turn "Twas down in Cupid's Gardens' and 'The Tailor's 
Breeches' at morning milking?' 

Ah, yes! When you first came, sir, that was. Not when 
you had been there a bit.' 

'Why was that falling-off?' 

Her black eyes flashed up to his face for one moment by 
way of answer. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'Izz! — how weak of you — for such as I!' he said, and fell 
into reverie. 'Then — suppose I had asked YOU to marry 
me?' 

'If you had I should have said 'Yes', and you would have 
married a woman who loved 'ee!' 

'Really!' 

'Down to the ground!' she whispered vehemently. 'O my 
God! did you never guess it till now!' 

By-and-by they reached a branch road to a village. 

'I must get down. I live out there,' said Izz abruptly, never 
having spoken since her avowal. 

Clare slowed the horse. He was incensed against his fate, 
bitterly disposed towards social ordinances; for they had 
cooped him up in a corner, out of which there was no legiti- 
mate pathway. Why not be revenged on society by shaping 
his future domesticities loosely, instead of kissing the peda- 
gogic rod of convention in this ensnaring manner? 

T am going to Brazil alone, Izz,' said he. 'I have sepa- 
rated from my wife for personal, not voyaging, reasons. I 
may never live with her again. I may not be able to love you; 
but — will you go with me instead of her?' 

'You truly wish me to go?' 

'I do. I have been badly used enough to wish for relief. 
And you at least love me disinterestedly.' 

'Yes — I will go,' said Izz, after a pause. 

'You will? You know what it means, Izz?' 

'It means that I shall live with you for the time you are 
over there — that's good enough for me.' 

'Remember, you are not to trust me in morals now. But I 



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ought to remind you that it will be wrong-doing in the eyes 
of civilization — Western civilization, that is to say' 

'I don't mind that; no woman do when it comes to agony- 
point, and there's no other way!' 

'Then don't get down, but sit where you are.' 

He drove past the cross-roads, one mile, two miles, with- 
out showing any signs of affection. 

'You love me very, very much, Izz?' he suddenly asked. 

T do — I have said I do! I loved you all the time we was at 
the dairy together!' 

'More than Tess?' 

She shook her head. 

'No,' she murmured, 'not more than she.' 

'How's that?' 

'Because nobody could love 'ee more than Tess did! ... She 
would have laid down her life for 'ee. I could do no more.' 

Like the prophet on the top of Peor, Izz Huett would fain 
have spoken perversely at such a moment, but the fascina- 
tion exercised over her rougher nature by Tess's character 
compelled her to grace. 

Clare was silent; his heart had risen at these straight- 
forward words from such an unexpected unimpeachable 
quarter. In his throat was something as if a sob had solidi- 
fied there. His ears repeated, 'SHE WOULD HAVE LAID 
DOWN HER LIFE FOR 'EE. I COULD DO NO MORE!' 

'Forget our idle talk, Izz,' he said, turning the horse's 
head suddenly. T don't know what I've been saying! I will 
now drive you back to where your lane branches off' 

'So much for honesty towards 'ee! O — how can I bear it — 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



how can I — how can I!' 

Izz Huett burst into wild tears, and beat her forehead as 
she saw what she had done. 

'Do you regret that poor little act of justice to an absent 
one? O, Izz, don't spoil it by regret!' 

She stilled herself by degrees. 

'Very well, sir. Perhaps I didn't know what I was saying, 
either, wh — when I agreed to go! I wish — what cannot be!' 

'Because I have a loving wife already' 

'Yes, yes! You have!' 

They reached the corner of the lane which they had 
passed half an hour earlier, and she hopped down. 

'Izz — please, please forget my momentary levity!' he 
cried. 'It was so ill-considered, so ill-advised!' 

'Forget it? Never, never! O, it was no levity to me!' 

He felt how richly he deserved the reproach that the 
wounded cry conveyed, and, in a sorrow that was inexpress- 
ible, leapt down and took her hand. 

'Well, but, Izz, we'll part friends, anyhow? You don't 
know what I've had to bear!' 

She was a really generous girl, and allowed no further 
bitterness to mar their adieux. 

T forgive 'ee, sir!' she said. 

'Now, Izz,' he said, while she stood beside him there, 
forcing himself to the mentor's part he was far from feel- 
ing; T want you to tell Marian when you see her that she is 
to be a good woman, and not to give way to folly. Promise 
that, and tell Retty that there are more worthy men than I 
in the world, that for my sake she is to act wisely and well — 



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remember the words — wisely and well — for my sake. I send 
this message to them as a dying man to the dying; for I shall 
never see them again. And you, Izzy, you have saved me by 
your honest words about my wife from an incredible im- 
pulse towards folly and treachery. Women may be bad, but 
they are not so bad as men in these things! On that one ac- 
count I can never forget you. Be always the good and sincere 
girl you have hitherto been; and think of me as a worthless 
lover, but a faithful friend. Promise.' 

She gave the promise. 

'Heaven bless and keep you, sir. Goodbye!' 

He drove on; but no sooner had Izz turned into the lane, 
and Clare was out of sight, than she flung herself down 
on the bank in a fit of racking anguish; and it was with a 
strained unnatural face that she entered her mother's cot- 
tage late that night. Nobody ever was told how Izz spent the 
dark hours that intervened between Angel Clare's parting 
from her and her arrival home. 

Clare, too, after bidding the girl farewell, was wrought to 
aching thoughts and quivering lips. But his sorrow was not 
for Izz. That evening he was within a feather-weight's turn 
of abandoning his road to the nearest station, and driving 
across that elevated dorsal line of South Wessex which di- 
vided him from his Tess's home. It was neither a contempt 
for her nature, nor the probable state of her heart, which 
deterred him. 

No; it was a sense that, despite her love, as corroborated 
by Izz's admission, the facts had not changed. If he was right 
at first, he was right now. And the momentum of the course 



?96 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



on which he had embarked tended to keep him going in it, 
unless diverted by a stronger, more sustained force than had 
played upon him this afternoon. He could soon come back 
to her. He took the train that night for London, and five days 
after shook hands in farewell of his brothers at the port of 
embarkation. 



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XLI 



From the foregoing events of the winter-time let us press 
on to an October day, more than eight months subsequent 
to the parting of Clare and Tess. We discover the latter 
in changed conditions; instead of a bride with boxes and 
trunks which others bore, we see her a lonely woman with 
a basket and a bundle in her own porterage, as at an earlier 
time when she was no bride; instead of the ample means 
that were projected by her husband for her comfort through 
this probationary period, she can produce only a flattened 
purse. 

After again leaving Marlott, her home, she had got 
through the spring and summer without any great stress 
upon her physical powers, the time being mainly spent in 
rendering light irregular service at dairy-work near Port- 
Bredy to the west of the Blackmoor Valley, equally remote 
from her native place and from Talbothays. She preferred 
this to living on his allowance. Mentally she remained in 
utter stagnation, a condition which the mechanical occupa- 
tion rather fostered than checked. Her consciousness was 
at that other dairy, at that other season, in the presence of 
the tender lover who had confronted her there — he who, the 
moment she had grasped him to keep for her own, had dis- 
appeared like a shape in a vision. 

The dairy-work lasted only till the milk began to lessen, 



.198 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



for she had not met with a second regular engagement as 
at Talbothays, but had done duty as a supernumerary only. 
However, as harvest was now beginning, she had simply to 
remove from the pasture to the stubble to find plenty of fur- 
ther occupation, and this continued till harvest was done. 

Of the five-and-twenty pounds which had remained to 
her of Clare's allowance, after deducting the other half of 
the fifty as a contribution to her parents for the trouble and 
expense to which she had put them, she had as yet spent but 
little. But there now followed an unfortunate interval of wet 
weather, during which she was obliged to fall back upon her 
sovereigns. 

She could not bear to let them go. Angel had put them 
into her hand, had obtained them bright and new from his 
bank for her; his touch had consecrated them to souvenirs of 
himself — they appeared to have had as yet no other history 
than such as was created by his and her own experiences — 
and to disperse them was like giving away relics. But she 
had to do it, and one by one they left her hands. 

She had been compelled to send her mother her address 
from time to time, but she concealed her circumstances. 
When her money had almost gone a letter from her mother 
reached her. Joan stated that they were in dreadful difficul- 
ty; the autumn rains had gone through the thatch of the 
house, which required entire renewal; but this could not be 
done because the previous thatching had never been paid 
for. New rafters and a new ceiling upstairs also were re- 
quired, which, with the previous bill, would amount to a 
sum of twenty pounds. As her husband was a man of means, 



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and had doubtless returned by this time, could she not send 
them the money? 

Tess had thirty pounds coming to her almost immediate- 
ly from Angel's bankers, and, the case being so deplorable, 
as soon as the sum was received she sent the twenty as re- 
quested. Part of the remainder she was obliged to expend in 
winter clothing, leaving only a nominal sum for the whole 
inclement season at hand. When the last pound had gone, 
a remark of Angel's that whenever she required further 
resources she was to apply to his father, remained to be con- 
sidered. 

But the more Tess thought of the step, the more reluc- 
tant was she to take it. The same delicacy, pride, false shame, 
whatever it may be called, on Clare's account, which had led 
her to hide from her own parents the prolongation of the 
estrangement, hindered her owning to his that she was in 
want after the fair allowance he had left her. They probably 
despised her already; how much more they would despise 
her in the character of a mendicant! The consequence was 
that by no effort could the parson's daughter-in-law bring 
herself to let him know her state. 

Her reluctance to communicate with her husband's par- 
ents might, she thought, lessen with the lapse of time; but 
with her own the reverse obtained. On her leaving their 
house after the short visit subsequent to her marriage they 
were under the impression that she was ultimately going to 
join her husband; and from that time to the present she had 
done nothing to disturb their belief that she was awaiting 
his return in comfort, hoping against hope that his journey 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



to Brazil would result in a short stay only, after which he 
would come to fetch her, or that he would write for her to 
join him; in any case that they would soon present a unit- 
ed front to their families and the world. This hope she still 
fostered. To let her parents know that she was a deserted 
wife, dependent, now that she had relieved their necessities, 
on her own hands for a living, after the eclat of a marriage 
which was to nullify the collapse of the first attempt, would 
be too much indeed. 

The set of brilliants returned to her mind. Where Clare 
had deposited them she did not know, and it mattered lit- 
tle, if it were true that she could only use and not sell them. 
Even were they absolutely hers it would be passing mean to 
enrich herself by a legal title to them which was not essen- 
tially hers at all. 

Meanwhile her husband's days had been by no means 
free from trial. At this moment he was lying ill of fever in 
the clay lands near Curitiba in Brazil, having been drenched 
with thunder-storms and persecuted by other hardships, in 
common with all the English farmers and farm-labourers 
who, just at this time, were deluded into going thither by the 
promises of the Brazilian Government, and by the baseless 
assumption that those frames which, ploughing and sowing 
on English uplands, had resisted all the weathers to whose 
moods they had been born, could resist equally well all the 
weathers by which they were surprised on Brazilian plains. 

To return. Thus it happened that when the last of Tess's 
sovereigns had been spent she was unprovided with others 
to take their place, while on account of the season she found 



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it increasingly difficult to get employment. Not being aware 
of the rarity of intelligence, energy, health, and willingness 
in any sphere of life, she refrained from seeking an indoor 
occupation; fearing towns, large houses, people of means 
and social sophistication, and of manners other than ru- 
ral. From that direction of gentility Black Care had come. 
Society might be better than she supposed from her slight 
experience of it. But she had no proof of this, and her in- 
stinct in the circumstances was to avoid its purlieus. 

The small dairies to the west, beyond Port-Bredy, in which 
she had served as supernumerary milkmaid during the 
spring and summer required no further aid. Room would 
probably have been made for her at Talbothays, if only out 
of sheer compassion; but comfortable as her life had been 
there, she could not go back. The anti- climax would be too 
intolerable; and her return might bring reproach upon her 
idolized husband. She could not have borne their pity, and 
their whispered remarks to one another upon her strange 
situation; though she would almost have faced a knowledge 
of her circumstances by every individual there, so long as 
her story had remained isolated in the mind of each. It was 
the interchange of ideas about her that made her sensitive- 
ness wince. Tess could not account for this distinction; she 
simply knew that she felt it. 

She was now on her way to an upland farm in the cen- 
tre of the county, to which she had been recommended by a 
wandering letter which had reached her from Marian. Mar- 
ian had somehow heard that Tess was separated from her 
husband — probably through Izz Huett — and the good-na- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



tured and now tippling girl, deeming Tess in trouble, had 
hastened to notify to her former friend that she herself had 
gone to this upland spot after leaving the dairy, and would 
like to see her there, where there was room for other hands, 
if it was really true that she worked again as of old. 

With the shortening of the days all hope of obtaining 
her husband's forgiveness began to leave her; and there 
was something of the habitude of the wild animal in the 
unreflecting instinct with which she rambled on — discon- 
necting herself by littles from her eventful past at every step, 
obliterating her identity, giving no thought to accidents or 
contingencies which might make a quick discovery of her 
whereabouts by others of importance to her own happiness, 
if not to theirs. 

Among the difficulties of her lonely position not the least 
was the attention she excited by her appearance, a certain 
bearing of distinction, which she had caught from Clare, 
being superadded to her natural attractiveness. Whilst the 
clothes lasted which had been prepared for her marriage, 
these casual glances of interest caused her no inconve- 
nience, but as soon as she was compelled to don the wrapper 
of a fieldwoman, rude words were addressed to her more 
than once; but nothing occurred to cause her bodily fear till 
a particular November afternoon. 

She had preferred the country west of the River Brit to 
the upland farm for which she was now bound, because, for 
one thing, it was nearer to the home of her husband's father; 
and to hover about that region unrecognized, with the no- 
tion that she might decide to call at the Vicarage some day, 



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gave her pleasure. But having once decided to try the higher 
and drier levels, she pressed back eastward, marching afoot 
towards the village of Chalk-Newton, where she meant to 
pass the night. 

The lane was long and unvaried, and, owing to the rapid 
shortening of the days, dusk came upon her before she was 
aware. She had reached the top of a hill down which the 
lane stretched its serpentine length in glimpses, when she 
heard footsteps behind her back, and in a few moments she 
was overtaken by a man. He stepped up alongside Tess and 
said — 

'Good night, my pretty maid": to which she civilly re- 
plied. 

The light still remaining in the sky lit up her face, though 
the landscape was nearly dark. The man turned and stared 
hard at her. 

'Why, surely, it is the young wench who was at Trant- 
ridge awhile — young Squire d'Urberville's friend? I was 
there at that time, though I don't live there now.' 

She recognized in him the well-to-do boor whom Angel 
had knocked down at the inn for addressing her coarsely. A 
spasm of anguish shot through her, and she returned him 
no answer. 

'Be honest enough to own it, and that what I said in the 
town was true, though your fancy-man was so up about it — 
hey, my sly one? You ought to beg my pardon for that blow 
of his, considering.' 

Still no answer came from Tess. There seemed only one 
escape for her hunted soul. She suddenly took to her heels 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



with the speed of the wind, and, without looking behind 
her, ran along the road till she came to a gate which opened 
directly into a plantation. Into this she plunged, and did not 
pause till she was deep enough in its shade to be safe against 
any possibility of discovery. 

Under foot the leaves were dry, and the foliage of some 
holly bushes which grew among the deciduous trees was 
dense enough to keep off draughts. She scraped together the 
dead leaves till she had formed them into a large heap, mak- 
ing a sort of nest in the middle. Into this Tess crept. 

Such sleep as she got was naturally fitful; she fancied she 
heard strange noises, but persuaded herself that they were 
caused by the breeze. She thought of her husband in some 
vague warm clime on the other side of the globe, while she 
was here in the cold. Was there another such a wretched be- 
ing as she in the world? Tess asked herself; and, thinking of 
her wasted life, said, All is vanity.' She repeated the words 
mechanically, till she reflected that this was a most inad- 
equate thought for modern days. Solomon had thought as 
far as that more than two thousand years ago; she herself, 
though not in the van of thinkers, had got much further. 
If all were only vanity, who would mind it? All was, alas, 
worse than vanity — injustice, punishment, exaction, death. 
The wife of Angel Clare put her hand to her brow, and felt 
its curve, and the edges of her eye-sockets perceptible under 
the soft skin, and thought as she did so that a time would 
come when that bone would be bare. 'I wish it were now,' 
she said. 

In the midst of these whimsical fancies she heard a new 



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strange sound among the leaves. It might be the wind; yet 
there was scarcely any wind. Sometimes it was a palpita- 
tion, sometimes a flutter; sometimes it was a sort of gasp 
or gurgle. Soon she was certain that the noises came from 
wild creatures of some kind, the more so when, originating 
in the boughs overhead, they were followed by the fall of a 
heavy body upon the ground. Had she been ensconced here 
under other and more pleasant conditions she would have 
become alarmed; but, outside humanity, she had at present 
no fear. 

Day at length broke in the sky. When it had been day 
aloft for some little while it became day in the wood. 

Directly the assuring and prosaic light of the world's 
active hours had grown strong, she crept from under her 
hillock of leaves, and looked around boldly. Then she per- 
ceived what had been going on to disturb her. The plantation 
wherein she had taken shelter ran down at this spot into a 
peak, which ended it hitherward, outside the hedge being 
arable ground. Under the trees several pheasants lay about, 
their rich plumage dabbled with blood; some were dead, 
some feebly twitching a wing, some staring up at the sky, 
some pulsating quickly, some contorted, some stretched 
out — all of them writhing in agony, except the fortunate 
ones whose tortures had ended during the night by the in- 
ability of nature to bear more. 

Tess guessed at once the meaning of this. The birds had 
been driven down into this corner the day before by some 
shooting-party; and while those that had dropped dead un- 
der the shot, or had died before nightfall, had been searched 



406 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



for and carried off, many badly wounded birds had escaped 
and hidden themselves away, or risen among the thick 
boughs, where they had maintained their position till they 
grew weaker with loss of blood in the night-time, when they 
had fallen one by one as she had heard them. 

She had occasionally caught glimpses of these men in 
girlhood, looking over hedges, or peeping through bushes, 
and pointing their guns, strangely accoutred, a bloodthirsty 
light in their eyes. She had been told that, rough and bru- 
tal as they seemed just then, they were not like this all the 
year round, but were, in fact, quite civil persons save during 
certain weeks of autumn and winter, when, like the inhab- 
itants of the Malay Peninsula, they ran amuck, and made it 
their purpose to destroy life — in this case harmless feath- 
ered creatures, brought into being by artificial means solely 
to gratify these propensities — at once so unmannerly and 
so unchivalrous towards their weaker fellows in Nature's 
teeming family. 

With the impulse of a soul who could feel for kindred 
sufferers as much as for herself, Tess's first thought was to 
put the still living birds out of their torture, and to this end 
with her own hands she broke the necks of as many as she 
could find, leaving them to lie where she had found them 
till the game-keepers should come — as they probably would 
come — to look for them a second time. 

'Poor darlings — to suppose myself the most miserable 
being on earth in the sight o' such misery as yours!' she 
exclaimed, her tears running down as she killed the birds 
tenderly. 'And not a twinge of bodily pain about me! I be 



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not mangled, and I be not bleeding, and I have two hands 
to feed and clothe me.' She was ashamed of herself for her 
gloom of the night, based on nothing more tangible than 
a sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society 
which had no foundation in Nature. 



408 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XLII 



It was now broad day, and she started again, emerging cau- 
tiously upon the highway. But there was no need for caution; 
not a soul was at hand, and Tess went onward with forti- 
tude, her recollection of the birds' silent endurance of their 
night of agony impressing upon her the relativity of sorrows 
and the tolerable nature of her own, if she could once rise 
high enough to despise opinion. But that she could not do 
so long as it was held by Clare. 

She reached Chalk-Newton, and breakfasted at an inn, 
where several young men were troublesomely complimen- 
tary to her good looks. Somehow she felt hopeful, for was 
it not possible that her husband also might say these same 
things to her even yet? She was bound to take care of her- 
self on the chance of it, and keep off these casual lovers. To 
this end Tess resolved to run no further risks from her ap- 
pearance. As soon as she got out of the village she entered 
a thicket and took from her basket one of the oldest field- 
gowns, which she had never put on even at the dairy — never 
since she had worked among the stubble at Marlott. She 
also, by a felicitous thought, took a handkerchief from her 
bundle and tied it round her face under her bonnet, cover- 
ing her chin and half her cheeks and temples, as if she were 
suffering from toothache. Then with her little scissors, by 
the aid of a pocket looking-glass, she mercilessly nipped her 



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eyebrows off, and thus insured against aggressive admira- 
tion, she went on her uneven way. 

'What a mommet of a maid!' said the next man who met 
her to a companion. 

Tears came into her eyes for very pity of herself as she 
heard him. 

'But I don't care!' she said. 'O no — I don't care! I'll always 
be ugly now, because Angel is not here, and I have nobody 
to take care of me. My husband that was is gone away, and 
never will love me any more; but I love him just the same, 
and hate all other men, and like to make 'em think scorn- 
fully of me!' 

Thus Tess walks on; a figure which is part of the land- 
scape; a fieldwoman pure and simple, in winter guise; a 
gray serge cape, a red woollen cravat, a stuff skirt covered 
by a whitey-brown rough wrapper, and buff-leather gloves. 
Every thread of that old attire has become faded and thin 
under the stroke of raindrops, the burn of sunbeams, and 
the stress of winds. There is no sign of young passion in her 
now — 

The maiden's mouth is cold 

Fold over simple fold 
Binding her head. 

Inside this exterior, over which the eye might have roved 
as over a thing scarcely percipient, almost inorganic, there 
was the record of a pulsing life which had learnt too well, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



for its years, of the dust and ashes of things, of the cruelty of 
lust and the fragility of love. 

Next day the weather was bad, but she trudged on, the 
honesty, directness, and impartiality of elemental enmity 
disconcerting her but little. Her object being a winter's oc- 
cupation and a winter's home, there was no time to lose. Her 
experience of short hirings had been such that she was de- 
termined to accept no more. 

Thus she went forward from farm to farm in the direc- 
tion of the place whence Marian had written to her, which 
she determined to make use of as a last shift only, its ru- 
moured stringencies being the reverse of tempting. First she 
inquired for the lighter kinds of employment, and, as ac- 
ceptance in any variety of these grew hopeless, applied next 
for the less light, till, beginning with the dairy and poultry 
tendance that she liked best, she ended with the heavy and 
course pursuits which she liked least — work on arable land: 
work of such roughness, indeed, as she would never have 
deliberately voluteered for. 

Towards the second evening she reached the irregular 
chalk table-land or plateau, bosomed with semi-globular 
tumuli — as if Cybele the Many-breasted were supinely ex- 
tended there — which stretched between the valley of her 
birth and the valley of her love. 

Here the air was dry and cold, and the long cart-roads 
were blown white and dusty within a few hours after rain. 
There were few trees, or none, those that would have grown 
in the hedges being mercilessly plashed down with the 
quickset by the tenant-farmers, the natural enemies of tree, 



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bush, and brake. In the middle distance ahead of her she 
could see the summits of Bulbarrow and of Nettlecombe 
Tout, and they seemed friendly. They had a low and un- 
assuming aspect from this upland, though as approached 
on the other side from Blackmoor in her childhood they 
were as lofty bastions against the sky. Southerly, at many 
miles' distance, and over the hills and ridges coastward, she 
could discern a surface like polished steel: it was the English 
Channel at a point far out towards France. 

Before her, in a slight depression, were the remains of a 
village. She had, in fact, reached Flintcomb-Ash, the place 
of Marian's sojourn. There seemed to be no help for it; hith- 
er she was doomed to come. The stubborn soil around her 
showed plainly enough that the kind of labour in demand 
here was of the roughest kind; but it was time to rest from 
searching, and she resolved to stay, particularly as it began 
to rain. At the entrance to the village was a cottage whose 
gable jutted into the road, and before applying for a lodging 
she stood under its shelter, and watched the evening close 
in. 

'Who would think I was Mrs Angel Clare!' she said. 

The wall felt warm to her back and shoulders, and she 
found that immediately within the gable was the cottage 
fireplace, the heat of which came through the bricks. She 
warmed her hands upon them, and also put her cheek — red 
and moist with the drizzle — against their comforting sur- 
face. The wall seemed to be the only friend she had. She had 
so little wish to leave it that she could have stayed there all 
night. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Tess could hear the occupants of the cottage — gathered 
together after their day's labour — talking to each other 
within, and the rattle of their supper-plates was also audi- 
ble. But in the village-street she had seen no soul as yet. The 
solitude was at last broken by the approach of one feminine 
figure, who, though the evening was cold, wore the print 
gown and the tilt-bonnet of summer time. Tess instinc- 
tively thought it might be Marian, and when she came near 
enough to be distinguishable in the gloom, surely enough 
it was she. Marian was even stouter and redder in the face 
than formerly, and decidedly shabbier in attire. At any pre- 
vious period of her existence Tess would hardly have cared 
to renew the acquaintance in such conditions; but her lone- 
liness was excessive, and she responded readily to Marian's 
greeting. 

Marian was quite respectful in her inquiries, but seemed 
much moved by the fact that Tess should still continue in no 
better condition than at first; though she had dimly heard 
of the separation. 

'Tess — Mrs Clare — the dear wife of dear he! And is it re- 
ally so bad as this, my child? Why is your cwomely face tied 
up in such a way? Anybody been beating 'ee? Not HE?' 

'No, no, no! I merely did it not to be clipsed or colled, 
Marian.' 

She pulled off in disgust a bandage which could suggest 
such wild thoughts. 

And you've got no collar on' (Tess had been accustomed 
to wear a little white collar at the dairy). 

'I know it, Marian.' 



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'You've lost it travelling.' 

'I've not lost it. The truth is, I don't care anything about 
my looks; and so I didn't put it on.' 

'And you don't wear your wedding-ring?' 

'Yes, I do; but not in public. I wear it round my neck on a 
ribbon. I don't wish people to think who I am by marriage, 
or that I am married at all; it would be so awkward while I 
lead my present life.' 

Marian paused. 

'But you BE a gentleman's wife; and it seems hardly fair 
that you should live like this!' 

'O yes it is, quite fair; though I am very unhappy' 

'Well, well. HE married you — and you can be unhappy!' 

'Wives are unhappy sometimes; from no fault of their 
husbands — from their own.' 

'You've no faults, deary; that I'm sure of. And he's none. 
So it must be something outside ye both.' 

'Marian, dear Marian, will you do me a good turn with- 
out asking questions? My husband has gone abroad, and 
somehow I have overrun my allowance, so that I have to 
fall back upon my old work for a time. Do not call me Mrs 
Clare, but Tess, as before. Do they want a hand here?' 

'O yes; they'll take one always, because few care to come. 
Tis a starve-acre place. Corn and swedes are all they grow. 
Though I be here myself, I feel 'tis a pity for such as you to 
come.' 

'But you used to be as good a dairywoman as I.' 

'Yes; but I've got out o' that since I took to drink. Lord, 
that's the only comfort I've got now! If you engage, you'll 



414 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



be set swede-hacking. That's what I be doing; but you won't 
like it.' 

'O — anything! Will you speak for me?' 

'You will do better by speaking for yourself 

'Very well. Now, Marian, remember — nothing about 
HIM if I get the place. I don't wish to bring his name down 
to the dirt.' 

Marian, who was really a trustworthy girl though of 
coarser grain than Tess, promised anything she asked. 

'This is pay-night,' she said, 'and if you were to come with 
me you would know at once. I be real sorry that you are not 
happy; but 'tis because he's away, I know. You couldn't be 
unhappy if he were here, even if he gie'd ye no money — even 
if he used you like a drudge.' 

'That's true; I could not!' 

They walked on together and soon reached the farm- 
house, which was almost sublime in its dreariness. There 
was not a tree within sight; there was not, at this season, a 
green pasture — nothing but fallow and turnips everywhere, 
in large fields divided by hedges plashed to unrelieved lev- 
els. 

Tess waited outside the door of the farmhouse till the 
group of workfolk had received their wages, and then Mar- 
ian introduced her. The farmer himself, it appeared, was not 
at home, but his wife, who represented him this evening, 
made no objection to hiring Tess, on her agreeing to remain 
till Old Lady-Day Female field-labour was seldom offered 
now, and its cheapness made it profitable for tasks which 
women could perform as readily as men. 



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Having signed the agreement, there was nothing more 
for Tess to do at present than to get a lodging, and she found 
one in the house at whose gable-wall she had warmed her- 
self. It was a poor subsistence that she had ensured, but it 
would afford a shelter for the winter at any rate. 

That night she wrote to inform her parents of her new 
address, in case a letter should arrive at Marlott from her 
husband. But she did not tell them of the sorriness of her 
situation: it might have brought reproach upon him. 



416 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XLIII 



There was no exaggeration in Marian's definition of Flint- 
comb-Ash farm as a starve-acre place. The single fat thing 
on the soil was Marian herself; and she was an importation. 
Of the three classes of village, the village cared for by its 
lord, the village cared for by itself, and the village uncared 
for either by itself or by its lord (in other words, the village 
of a resident squires's tenantry, the village of freeor copy- 
holders, and the absentee-owner's village, farmed with the 
land) this place, Flintcomb-Ash, was the third. 

But Tess set to work. Patience, that blending of moral 
courage with physical timidity, was now no longer a minor 
feature in Mrs Angel Clare; and it sustained her. 

The swede-field in which she and her companion were 
set hacking was a stretch of a hundred odd acres in one 
patch, on the highest ground of the farm, rising above stony 
lanchets or lynchets — the outcrop of siliceous veins in the 
chalk formation, composed of myriads of loose white flints 
in bulbous, cusped, and phallic shapes. The upper half of 
each turnip had been eaten off by the live-stock, and it was 
the business of the two women to grub up the lower or 
earthy half of the root with a hooked fork called a hacker, 
that it might be eaten also. Every leaf of the vegetable hav- 
ing already been consumed, the whole field was in colour a 
desolate drab; it was a complexion without features, as if a 



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face, from chin to brow, should be only an expanse of skin. 
The sky wore, in another colour, the same likeness; a white 
vacuity of countenance with the lineaments gone. So these 
two upper and nether visages confronted each other all day 
long, the white face looking down on the brown face, and 
the brown face looking up at the white face, without any- 
thing standing between them but the two girls crawling 
over the surface of the former like flies. 

Nobody came near them, and their movements showed a 
mechanical regularity; their forms standing enshrouded in 
Hessian 'wrappers' — sleeved brown pinafores, tied behind 
to the bottom, to keep their gowns from blowing about — 
scant skirts revealing boots that reached high up the ankles, 
and yellow sheepskin gloves with gauntlets. The pensive 
character which the curtained hood lent to their bent heads 
would have reminded the observer of some early Italian 
conception of the two Marys. 

They worked on hour after hour, unconscious of the for- 
lorn aspect they bore in the landscape, not thinking of the 
justice or injustice of their lot. Even in such a position as 
theirs it was possible to exist in a dream. In the afternoon 
the rain came on again, and Marian said that they need not 
work any more. But if they did not work they would not be 
paid; so they worked on. It was so high a situation, this field, 
that the rain had no occasion to fall, but raced along hori- 
zontally upon the yelling wind, sticking into them like glass 
splinters till they were wet through. Tess had not known 
till now what was really meant by that. There are degrees 
of dampness, and a very little is called being wet through 



418 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



in common talk. But to stand working slowly in a field, and 
feel the creep of rain-water, first in legs and shoulders, then 
on hips and head, then at back, front, and sides, and yet to 
work on till the leaden light diminishes and marks that the 
sun is down, demands a distinct modicum of stoicism, even 
of valour. 

Yet they did not feel the wetness so much as might be 
supposed. They were both young, and they were talking of 
the time when they lived and loved together at Talbothays 
Dairy, that happy green tract of land where summer had 
been liberal in her gifts; in substance to all, emotionally to 
these. Tess would fain not have conversed with Marian of 
the man who was legally, if not actually, her husband; but 
the irresistible fascination of the subject betrayed her into 
reciprocating Marian's remarks. And thus, as has been said, 
though the damp curtains of their bonnets flapped smart- 
ly into their faces, and their wrappers clung about them to 
wearisomeness, they lived all this afternoon in memories of 
green, sunny, romantic Talbothays. 

'You can see a gleam of a hill within a few miles o' Froom 
Valley from here when 'tis fine,' said Marian. 

'Ah! Can you?' said Tess, awake to the new value of this 
locality. 

So the two forces were at work here as everywhere, the 
inherent will to enjoy, and the circumstantial will against 
enjoyment. Marian's will had a method of assisting itself by 
taking from her pocket as the afternoon wore on a pint bot- 
tle corked with white rag, from which she invited Tess to 
drink. Tess's unassisted power of dreaming, however, being 



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enough for her sublimation at present, she declined except 
the merest sip, and then Marian took a pull from the spir- 
its. 

'I've got used to it,' she said, 'and can't leave it off now. 
'Tis my only comfort — You see I lost him: you didn't; and 
you can do without it perhaps.' 

Tess thought her loss as great as Marian's, but upheld by 
the dignity of being Angel's wife, in the letter at least, she 
accepted Marian's differentiation. 

Amid this scene Tess slaved in the morning frosts and in 
the afternoon rains. When it was not swede-grubbing it was 
swede-trimming, in which process they sliced off the earth 
and the fibres with a bill-hook before storing the roots for 
future use. At this occupation they could shelter themselves 
by a thatched hurdle if it rained; but if it was frosty even 
their thick leather gloves could not prevent the frozen mass- 
es they handled from biting their fingers. Still Tess hoped. 
She had a conviction that sooner or later the magnanim- 
ity which she persisted in reckoning as a chief ingredient of 
Clare's character would lead him to rejoin her. 

Marian, primed to a humorous mood, would discover 
the queer-shaped flints aforesaid, and shriek with laughter, 
Tess remaining severely obtuse. They often looked across 
the country to where the Var or Froom was know to stretch, 
even though they might not be able to see it; and, fixing 
their eyes on the cloaking gray mist, imagined the old times 
they had spent out there. 

Ah,' said Marian, 'how I should like another or two of 
our old set to come here! Then we could bring up Talboth- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ays every day here afield, and talk of he, and of what nice 
times we had there, and o' the old things we used to know, 
and make it all come back a'most, in seeming!' Marian's eyes 
softened, and her voice grew vague as the visions returned. 
'I'll write to Izz Huett,' she said. 'She's biding at home doing 
nothing now, I know, and I'll tell her we be here, and ask her 
to come; and perhaps Retty is well enough now.' 

Tess had nothing to say against the proposal, and the 
next she heard of this plan for importing old Talbothays' 
joys was two or three days later, when Marian informed 
her that Izz had replied to her inquiry, and had promised to 
come if she could. 

There had not been such a winter for years. It came on 
in stealthy and measured glides, like the moves of a chess- 
player. One morning the few lonely trees and the thorns of 
the hedgerows appeared as if they had put off a vegetable for 
an animal integument. Every twig was covered with a white 
nap as of fur grown from the rind during the night, giving it 
four times its usual stoutness; the whole bush or tree form- 
ing a staring sketch in white lines on the mournful gray of 
the sky and horizon. Cobwebs revealed their presence on 
sheds and walls where none had ever been observed till 
brought out into visibility by the crystallizing atmosphere, 
hanging like loops of white worsted from salient points of 
the out-houses, posts, and gates. 

After this season of congealed dampness came a spell of 
dry frost, when strange birds from behind the North Pole 
began to arrive silently on the upland of Flintcomb-Ash; 
gaunt spectral creatures with tragical eyes — eyes which had 



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witnessed scenes of cataclysmal horror in inaccessible polar 
regions of a magnitude such as no human being had ever 
conceived, in curdling temperatures that no man could en- 
dure; which had beheld the crash of icebergs and the slide 
of snow-hills by the shooting light of the Aurora; been half 
blinded by the whirl of colossal storms and terraqueous dis- 
tortions; and retained the expression of feature that such 
scenes had engendered. These nameless birds came quite 
near to Tess and Marian, but of all they had seen which 
humanity would never see, they brought no account. The 
traveller's ambition to tell was not theirs, and, with dumb 
impassivity, they dismissed experiences which they did 
not value for the immediate incidents of this homely up- 
land — the trivial movements of the two girls in disturbing 
the clods with their hackers so as to uncover something or 
other that these visitants relished as food. 

Then one day a peculiar quality invaded the air of this 
open country. There came a moisture which was not of rain, 
and a cold which was not of frost. It chilled the eyeballs of 
the twain, made their brows ache, penetrated to their skel- 
etons, affecting the surface of the body less than its core. 
They knew that it meant snow, and in the night the snow 
came. Tess, who continued to live at the cottage with the 
warm gable that cheered any lonely pedestrian who paused 
beside it, awoke in the night, and heard above the thatch 
noises which seemed to signify that the roof had turned it- 
self into a gymnasium of all the winds. When she lit her 
lamp to get up in the morning she found that the snow had 
blown through a chink in the casement, forming a white 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



cone of the finest powder against the inside, and had also 
come down the chimney, so that it lay sole-deep upon the 
floor, on which her shoes left tracks when she moved about. 
Without, the storm drove so fast as to create a snow-mist 
in the kitchen; but as yet it was too dark out-of-doors to see 
anything. 

Tess knew that it was impossible to go on with the swedes; 
and by the time she had finished breakfast beside the solitary 
little lamp, Marian arrived to tell her that they were to join 
the rest of the women at reed- drawing in the barn till the 
weather changed. As soon, therefore, as the uniform cloak 
of darkness without began to turn to a disordered medley 
of grays, they blew out the lamp, wrapped themselves up in 
their thickest pinners, tied their woollen cravats round their 
necks and across their chests, and started for the barn. The 
snow had followed the birds from the polar basin as a white 
pillar of a cloud, and individual flakes could not be seen. 
The blast smelt of icebergs, arctic seas, whales, and white 
bears, carrying the snow so that it licked the land but did 
not deepen on it. They trudged onwards with slanted bodies 
through the flossy fields, keeping as well as they could in the 
shelter of hedges, which, however, acted as strainers rath- 
er than screens. The air, afflicted to pallor with the hoary 
multitudes that infested it, twisted and spun them eccentri- 
cally, suggesting an achromatic chaos of things. But both 
the young women were fairly cheerful; such weather on a 
dry upland is not in itself dispiriting. 

'Ha-ha! the cunning northern birds knew this was com- 
ing,' said Marian. 'Depend upon't, they keep just in front 



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o't all the way from the North Star. Your husband, my dear, 
is, I make no doubt, having scorching weather all this time. 
Lord, if he could only see his pretty wife now! Not that this 
weather hurts your beauty at all — in fact, it rather does it 
good.' 

'You mustn't talk about him to me, Marian,' said Tess 
severely. 

'Well, but — surely you care for'n! Do you?' 

Instead of answering, Tess, with tears in her eyes, impul- 
sively faced in the direction in which she imagined South 
America to lie, and, putting up her lips, blew out a passion- 
ate kiss upon the snowy wind. 

'Well, well, I know you do. But 'pon my body, it is a rum 
life for a married couple! There — I won't say another word! 
Well, as for the weather, it won't hurt us in the wheat-barn; 
but reed-drawing is fearful hard work — worse than swede- 
hacking. I can stand it because I'm stout; but you be slimmer 
than I, I can't think why maister should have set 'ee at it.' 

They reached the wheat-barn and entered it. One end of 
the long structure was full of corn; the middle was where 
the reed-drawing was carried on, and there had already 
been placed in the reed-press the evening before as many 
sheaves of wheat as would be sufficient for the women to 
draw from during the day. 

Why, here's Izz!' said Marian. 

Izz it was, and she came forward. She had walked all the 
way from her mother's home on the previous afternoon, 
and, not deeming the distance so great, had been belated, 
arriving, however, just before the snow began, and sleeping 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



at the alehouse. The farmer had agreed with her mother at 
market to take her on if she came to-day, and she had been 
afraid to disappoint him by delay. 

In addition to Tess, Marian, and Izz, there were two 
women from a neighbouring village; two Amazonian sis- 
ters, whom Tess with a start remembered as Dark Car, the 
Queen of Spades, and her junior, the Queen of Diamonds — 
those who had tried to fight with her in the midnight 
quarrel at Trantridge. They showed no recognition of her, 
and possibly had none, for they had been under the influ- 
ence of liquor on that occasion, and were only temporary 
sojourners there as here. They did all kinds of men's work by 
preference, including well-sinking, hedging, ditching, and 
excavating, without any sense of fatigue. Noted reed-draw- 
ers were they too, and looked round upon the other three 
with some superciliousness. 

Putting on their gloves, all set to work in a row in front 
of the press, an erection formed of two posts connected by a 
cross-beam, under which the sheaves to be drawn from were 
laid ears outward, the beam being pegged down by pins in 
the uprights, and lowered as the sheaves diminished. 

The day hardened in colour, the light coming in at the 
barndoors upwards from the snow instead of downwards 
from the sky. The girls pulled handful after handful from 
the press; but by reason of the presence of the strange wom- 
en, who were recounting scandals, Marian and Izz could 
not at first talk of old times as they wished to do. Presently 
they heard the muffled tread of a horse, and the farmer rode 
up to the barndoor. When he had dismounted he came close 



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to Tess, and remained looking musingly at the side of her 
face. She had not turned at first, but his fixed attitude led her 
to look round, when she perceived that her employer was 
the native of Trantridge from whom she had taken flight on 
the high-road because of his allusion to her history. 

He waited till she had carried the drawn bundles to the 
pile outside, when he said, 'So you be the young woman who 
took my civility in such ill part? Be drowned if I didn't think 
you might be as soon as I heard of your being hired! Well, 
you thought you had got the better of me the first time at the 
inn with your fancy-man, and the second time on the road, 
when you bolted; but now I think I've got the better you.' He 
concluded with a hard laugh. 

Tess, between the Amazons and the farmer, like a bird 
caught in a clap-net, returned no answer, continuing to 
pull the straw. She could read character sufficiently well to 
know by this time that she had nothing to fear from her em- 
ployer's gallantry; it was rather the tyranny induced by his 
mortification at Clare's treatment of him. Upon the whole 
she preferred that sentiment in man and felt brave enough 
to endure it. 

'You thought I was in love with 'ee I suppose? Some wom- 
en are such fools, to take every look as serious earnest. But 
there's nothing like a winter afield for taking that nonsense 
out o' young wenches' heads; and you've signed and agreed 
till Lady-Day. Now, are you going to beg my pardon?' 

'I think you ought to beg mine.' 

'Very well — as you like. But we'll see which is master 
here. Be they all the sheaves you've done to-day?' 



426 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'Yes, sir.' 

"Tis a very poor show. Just see what they've done over 
there' (pointing to the two stalwart women). 'The rest, too, 
have done better than you.' 

'They've all practised it before, and I have not. And I 
thought it made no difference to you as it is task work, and 
we are only paid for what we do.' 

'Oh, but it does. I want the barn cleared.' 

'I am going to work all the afternoon instead of leaving at 
two as the others will do.' 

He looked sullenly at her and went away. Tess felt that 
she could not have come to a much worse place; but any- 
thing was better than gallantry. When two o'clock arrived 
the professional reed-drawers tossed off the last half- pint in 
their flagon, put down their hooks, tied their last sheaves, 
and went away. Marian and Izz would have done likewise, 
but on hearing that Tess meant to stay, to make up by longer 
hours for her lack of skill, they would not leave her. Looking 
out at the snow, which still fell, Marian exclaimed, 'Now, 
we've got it all to ourselves.' And so at last the conversation 
turned to their old experiences at the dairy; and, of course, 
the incidents of their affection for Angel Clare. 

Tzz and Marian,' said Mrs Angel Clare, with a dignity 
which was extremely touching, seeing how very little of a 
wife she was: 'I can't join in talk with you now, as I used to 
do, about Mr Clare; you will see that I cannot; because, al- 
though he is gone away from me for the present, he is my 
husband.' 

Izz was by nature the sauciest and most caustic of all the 



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four girls who had loved Clare. 'He was a very splendid lov- 
er, no doubt,' she said; 'but I don't think he is a too fond 
husband to go away from you so soon.' 

'He had to go — he was obliged to go, to see about the land 
over there!' pleaded Tess. 

'He might have tided 'ee over the winter.' 

'Ah — that's owing to an accident — a misunderstanding; 
and we won't argue it,' Tess answered, with tearfulness in 
her words. 'Perhaps there's a good deal to be said for him! 
He did not go away, like some husbands, without telling me; 
and I can always find out where he is.' 

After this they continued for some long time in a reverie, 
as they went on seizing the ears of corn, drawing out the 
straw, gathering it under their arms, and cutting off the ears 
with their bill-hooks, nothing sounding in the barn but the 
swish of the straw and the crunch of the hook. Then Tess 
suddenly flagged, and sank down upon the heap of wheat- 
ears at her feet. 

'I knew you wouldn't be able to stand it!' cried Marian. 'It 
wants harder flesh than yours for this work.' 

Just then the farmer entered. 'Oh, that's how you get on 
when I am away,' he said to her. 

'But it is my own loss,' she pleaded. 'Not yours.' 

'I want it finished,' he said doggedly, as he crossed the 
barn and went out at the other door. 

'Don't 'ee mind him, there's a dear,' said Marian. 'I've 
worked here before. Now you go and lie down there, and Izz 
and I will make up your number.' 

'I don't like to let you do that. I'm taller than you, too.' 



428 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



However, she was so overcome that she consented to lie 
down awhile, and reclined on a heap of pull-tails — the re- 
fuse after the straight straw had been drawn — thrown up at 
the further side of the barn. Her succumbing had been as 
largely owning to agitation at the re-opening the subject of 
her separation from her husband as to the hard work. She 
lay in a state of percipience without volition, and the rustle 
of the straw and the cutting of the ears by the others had the 
weight of bodily touches. 

She could hear from her corner, in addition to these 
noises, the murmur of their voices. She felt certain that they 
were continuing the subject already broached, but their 
voices were so low that she could not catch the words. At 
last Tess grew more and more anxious to know what they 
were saying, and, persuading herself that she felt better, she 
got up and resumed work. 

Then Izz Huett broke down. She had walked more than a 
dozen miles the previous evening, had gone to bed at mid- 
night, and had risen again at five o'clock. Marian alone, 
thanks to her bottle of liquor and her stoutness of build, 
stood the strain upon back and arms without suffering. Tess 
urged Izz to leave off, agreeing, as she felt better, to finish 
the day without her, and make equal division of the number 
of sheaves. 

Izz accepted the offer gratefully, and disappeared through 
the great door into the snowy track to her lodging. Marian, 
as was the case every afternoon at this time on account of 
the bottle, began to feel in a romantic vein. 

'I should not have thought it of him — never!' she said in a 



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dreamy tone. 'And I loved him so! I didn't mind his having 
YOU. But this about Izz is too bad!' 

Tess, in her start at the words, narrowly missed cutting 
off a finger with the bill-hook. 

'Is it about my husband?' she stammered. 

'Well, yes. Izz said, 'Don't 'ee tell her'; but I am sure I 
can't help it! It was what he wanted Izz to do. He wanted her 
to go off to Brazil with him.' 

Tess's face faded as white as the scene without, and its 
curves straightened. 'And did Izz refuse to go?' she asked. 

'I don't know. Anyhow he changed his mind.' 

'Pooh — then he didn't mean it! 'Twas just a man's jest!' 

'Yes he did; for he drove her a good-ways towards the 
station.' 

'He didn't take her!' 

They pulled on in silence till Tess, without any premoni- 
tory symptoms, burst out crying. 

'There!' said Marian. 'Now I wish I hadn't told 'ee!' 

'No. It is a very good thing that you have done! I have 
been living on in a thirtover, lackaday way, and have not 
seen what it may lead to! I ought to have sent him a letter 
oftener. He said I could not go to him, but he didn't say I 
was not to write as often as I liked. I won't dally like this any 
longer! I have been very wrong and neglectful in leaving ev- 
erything to be done by him!' 

The dim light in the barn grew dimmer, and they could 
see to work no longer. When Tess had reached home that 
evening, and had entered into the privacy of her little white- 
washed chamber, she began impetuously writing a letter to 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Clare. But falling into doubt, she could not finish it. After- 
wards she took the ring from the ribbon on which she wore 
it next her heart, and retained it on her finger all night, as 
if to fortify herself in the sensation that she was really the 
wife of this elusive lover of hers, who could propose that 
Izz should go with him abroad, so shortly after he had left 
her. Knowing that, how could she write entreaties to him, or 
show that she cared for him any more? 



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XLIV 



By the disclosure in the barn her thoughts were led anew 
in the direction which they had taken more than once of 
late — to the distant Emminster Vicarage. It was through 
her husband's parents that she had been charged to send a 
letter to Clare if she desired; and to write to them direct if 
in difficulty. But that sense of her having morally no claim 
upon him had always led Tess to suspend her impulse to 
send these notes; and to the family at the Vicarage, therefore, 
as to her own parents since her marriage, she was virtual- 
ly non-existent. This self-effacement in both directions had 
been quite in consonance with her independent character of 
desiring nothing by way of favour or pity to which she was 
not entitled on a fair consideration of her deserts. She had 
set herself to stand or fall by her qualities, and to waive such 
merely technical claims upon a strange family as had been 
established for her by the flimsy fact of a member of that 
family, in a season of impulse, writing his name in a church- 
book beside hers. 

But now that she was stung to a fever by Izz's tale, there 
was a limit to her powers of renunciation. Why had her hus- 
band not written to her? He had distinctly implied that he 
would at least let her know of the locality to which he had 
journeyed; but he had not sent a line to notify his address. 
Was he really indifferent? But was he ill? Was it for her to 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



make some advance? Surely she might summon the courage 
of solicitude, call at the Vicarage for intelligence, and express 
her grief at his silence. If Angel's father were the good man 
she had heard him represented to be, he would be able to en- 
ter into her heart-starved situation. Her social hardships she 
could conceal. 

To leave the farm on a week-day was not in her power; 
Sunday was the only possible opportunity. Flintcomb-Ash 
being in the middle of the cretaceous tableland over which 
no railway had climbed as yet, it would be necessary to walk. 
And the distance being fifteen miles each way she would 
have to allow herself a long day for the undertaking by ris- 
ing early. 

A fortnight later, when the snow had gone, and had been 
followed by a hard black frost, she took advantage of the state 
of the roads to try the experiment. At four o'clock that Sun- 
day morning she came downstairs and stepped out into the 
starlight. The weather was still favourable, the ground ring- 
ing under her feet like an anvil. 

Marian and Izz were much interested in her excursion, 
knowing that the journey concerned her husband. Their 
lodgings were in a cottage a little further along the lane, but 
they came and assisted Tess in her departure, and argued 
that she should dress up in her very prettiest guise to capti- 
vate the hearts of her parents-in-law; though she, knowing 
of the austere and Calvinistic tenets of old Mr Clare, was in- 
different, and even doubtful. A year had now elapsed since 
her sad marriage, but she had preserved sufficient draperies 
from the wreck of her then full wardrobe to clothe her very 



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charmingly as a simple country girl with no pretensions to 
recent fashion; a soft gray woollen gown, with white crape 
quilling against the pink skin of her face and neck, and a 
black velvet jacket and hat. 

"Tis a thousand pities your husband can't see 'ee now — 
you do look a real beauty!' said Izz Huett, regarding Tess 
as she stood on the threshold between the steely starlight 
without and the yellow candlelight within. Izz spoke with a 
magnanimous abandonment of herself to the situation; she 
could not be — no woman with a heart bigger than a hazel-nut 
could be — antagonistic to Tess in her presence, the influence 
which she exercised over those of her own sex being of a 
warmth and strength quite unusual, curiously overpower- 
ing the less worthy feminine feelings of spite and rivalry. 

With a final tug and touch here, and a slight brush there, 
they let her go; and she was absorbed into the pearly air of 
the fore-dawn. They heard her footsteps tap along the hard 
road as she stepped out to her full pace. Even Izz hoped she 
would win, and, though without any particular respect for 
her own virtue, felt glad that she had been prevented wrong- 
ing her friend when momentarily tempted by Clare. 

It was a year ago, all but a day, that Clare had married 
Tess, and only a few days less than a year that he had been 
absent from her. Still, to start on a brisk walk, and on such an 
errand as hers, on a dry clear wintry morning, through the 
rarefied air of these chalky hogs'-backs, was not depressing; 
and there is no doubt that her dream at starting was to win 
the heart of her mother-in-law, tell her whole history to that 
lady, enlist her on her side, and so gain back the truant. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



In time she reached the edge of the vast escarpment be- 
low which stretched the loamy Vale of Blackmoor, now lying 
misty and still in the dawn. Instead of the colourless air of 
the uplands, the atmosphere down there was a deep blue. 
Instead of the great enclosures of a hundred acres in which 
she was now accustomed to toil, there were little fields below 
her of less than half-a-dozen acres, so numerous that they 
looked from this height like the meshes of a net. Here the 
landscape was whitey-brown; down there, as in Froom Val- 
ley, it was always green. Yet it was in that vale that her sorrow 
had taken shape, and she did not love it as formerly. Beauty 
to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what 
the thing symbolized. 

Keeping the Vale on her right, she steered steadily west- 
ward; passing above the Hintocks, crossing at right-angles 
the high-road from Sherton-Abbas to Casterbridge, and 
skirting Dogbury Hill and High-Stoy, with the dell between 
them called 'The Devil's Kitchen". Still following the elevat- 
ed way she reached Cross-in-Hand, where the stone pillar 
stands desolate and silent, to mark the site of a miracle, 
or murder, or both. Three miles further she cut across the 
straight and deserted Roman road called Long-Ash Lane; 
leaving which as soon as she reached it she dipped down 
a hill by a transverse lane into the small town or village of 
Evershead, being now about halfway over the distance. She 
made a halt here, and breakfasted a second time, heartily 
enough — not at the Sow-and-Acorn, for she avoided inns, 
but at a cottage by the church. 

The second half of her j ourney was through a more gentle 



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country, by way of Benvill Lane. But as the mileage lessened 
between her and the spot of her pilgrimage, so did Tess's 
confidence decrease, and her enterprise loom out more for- 
midably. She saw her purpose in such staring lines, and the 
landscape so faintly, that she was sometimes in danger of 
losing her way. However, about noon she paused by a gate 
on the edge of the basin in which Emminster and its Vicar- 
age lay. 

The square tower, beneath which she knew that at that 
moment the Vicar and his congregation were gathered, had 
a severe look in her eyes. She wished that she had somehow 
contrived to come on a week-day. Such a good man might be 
prejudiced against a woman who had chosen Sunday, never 
realizing the necessities of her case. But it was incumbent 
upon her to go on now. She took off the thick boots in which 
she had walked thus far, put on her pretty thin ones of patent 
leather, and, stuffing the former into the hedge by the gate- 
post where she might readily find them again, descended the 
hill; the freshness of colour she had derived from the keen 
air thinning away in spite of her as she drew near the par- 
sonage. 

Tess hoped for some accident that might favour her, but 
nothing favoured her. The shrubs on the Vicarage lawn rus- 
tled uncomfortably in the frosty breeze; she could not feel 
by any stretch of imagination, dressed to her highest as she 
was, that the house was the residence of near relations; and 
yet nothing essential, in nature or emotion, divided her from 
them: in pains, pleasures, thoughts, birth, death, and after- 
death, they were the same. 



436 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She nerved herself by an effort, entered the swing-gate, 
and rang the door-bell. The thing was done; there could be 
no retreat. No; the thing was not done. Nobody answered to 
her ringing. The effort had to be risen to and made again. 
She rang a second time, and the agitation of the act, coupled 
with her weariness after the fifteen miles' walk, led her sup- 
port herself while she waited by resting her hand on her hip, 
and her elbow against the wall of the porch. The wind was 
so nipping that the ivy-leaves had become wizened and gray, 
each tapping incessantly upon its neighbour with a disquiet- 
ing stir of her nerves. A piece of blood-stained paper, caught 
up from some meat-buyer's dust-heap, beat up and down 
the road without the gate; too flimsy to rest, too heavy to fly 
away; and a few straws kept it company. 

The second peal had been louder, and still nobody came. 
Then she walked out of the porch, opened the gate, and 
passed through. And though she looked dubiously at the 
house-front as if inclined to return, it was with a breath of 
relied that she closed the gate. A feeling haunted her that she 
might have been recognized (though how she could not tell), 
and orders been given not to admit her. 

Tess went as far as the corner. She had done all she could 
do; but determined not to escape present trepidation at the 
expense of future distress, she walked back again quite past 
the house, looking up at all the windows. 

Ah — the explanation was that they were all at church, ev- 
ery one. She remembered her husband saying that his father 
always insisted upon the household, servants included, go- 
ing to morning-service, and, as a consequence, eating cold 



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food when they came home. It was, therefore, only neces- 
sary to wait till the service was over. She would not make 
herself conspicuous by waiting on the spot, and she start- 
ed to get past the church into the lane. But as she reached 
the churchyard-gate the people began pouring out, and Tess 
found herself in the midst of them. 

The Emminster congregation looked at her as only a con- 
gregation of small country-townsfolk walking home at its 
leisure can look at a woman out of the common whom it per- 
ceives to be a stranger. She quickened her pace, and ascended 
the the road by which she had come, to find a retreat be- 
tween its hedges till the Vicar's family should have lunched, 
and it might be convenient for them to receive her. She soon 
distanced the churchgoers, except two youngish men, who, 
linked arm-in-arm, were beating up behind her at a quick 
step. 

As they drew nearer she could hear their voices engaged 
in earnest discourse, and, with the natural quickness of a 
woman in her situation, did not fail to recognize in those 
noises the quality of her husband's tones. The pedestrians 
were his two brothers. Forgetting all her plans, Tess's one 
dread was lest they should overtake her now, in her disor- 
ganized condition, before she was prepared to confront 
them; for though she felt that they could not identify her, 
she instinctively dreaded their scrutiny. The more briskly 
they walked, the more briskly walked she. They were plainly 
bent upon taking a short quick stroll before going indoors to 
lunch or dinner, to restore warmth to limbs chilled with sit- 
ting through a long service. 



4JS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Only one person had preceded Tess up the hill — a lady- 
like young woman, somewhat interesting, though, perhaps, 
a trifle guindee and prudish. Tess had nearly overtaken her 
when the speed of her brothers-in-law brought them so near- 
ly behind her back that she could hear every word of their 
conversation. They said nothing, however, which particular- 
ly interested her till, observing the young lady still further in 
front, one of them remarked, 'There is Mercy Chant. Let us 
overtake her.' 

Tess knew the name. It was the woman who had been 
destined for Angel's life-companion by his and her par- 
ents, and whom he probably would have married but for her 
intrusive self. She would have known as much without pre- 
vious information if she had waited a moment, for one of the 
brothers proceeded to say: Ah! poor Angel, poor Angel! I 
never see that nice girl without more and more regretting his 
precipitancy in throwing himself away upon a dairymaid, 
or whatever she may be. It is a queer business, apparently. 
Whether she has joined him yet or not I don't know; but she 
had not done so some months ago when I heard from him.' 

'I can't say. He never tells me anything nowadays. His 
ill-considered marriage seems to have completed that es- 
trangement from me which was begun by his extraordinary 
opinions.' 

Tess beat up the long hill still faster; but she could not 
outwalk them without exciting notice. At last they outsped 
her altogether, and passed her by. The young lady still fur- 
ther ahead heard their footsteps and turned. Then there was 
a greeting and a shaking of hands, and the three went on 



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together. 

They soon reached the summit of the hill, and, evident- 
ly intending this point to be the limit of their promenade, 
slackened pace and turned all three aside to the gate whereat 
Tess had paused an hour before that time to reconnoitre the 
town before descending into it. During their discourse one 
of the clerical brothers probed the hedge carefully with his 
umbrella, and dragged something to light. 

'Here's a pair of old boots,' he said. 'Thrown away, I sup- 
pose, by some tramp or other.' 

'Some imposter who wished to come into the town bare- 
foot, perhaps, and so excite our sympathies,' said Miss 
Chant. 'Yes, it must have been, for they are excellent walk- 
ing-boots — by no means worn out. What a wicked thing to 
do! I'll carry them home for some poor person.' 

Cuthbert Clare, who had been the one to find them, 
picked them up for her with the crook of his stick; and Tess's 
boots were appropriated. 

She, who had heard this, walked past under the screen of 
her woollen veil till, presently looking back, she perceived 
that the church party had left the gate with her boots and re- 
treated down the hill. 

Thereupon our heroine resumed her walk. Tears, blind- 
ing tears, were running down her face. She knew that it was 
all sentiment, all baseless impressibility, which had caused 
her to read the scene as her own condemnation; nevertheless 
she could not get over it; she could not contravene in her own 
defenceless person all those untoward omens. It was impos- 
sible to think of returning to the Vicarage. Angel's wife felt 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



almost as if she had been hounded up that hill like a scorned 
thing by those — to her — superfine clerics. Innocently as the 
slight had been inflicted, it was somewhat unfortunate that 
she had encountered the sons and not the father, who, despite 
his narrowness, was far less starched and ironed than they, 
and had to the full the gift of charity. As she again thought 
of her dusty boots she almost pitied those habiliments for 
the quizzing to which they had been subjected, and felt how 
hopeless life was for their owner. 

Ah!' she said, still sighing in pity of herself, 'THEY didn't 
know that I wore those over the roughest part of the road to 
save these pretty ones HE bought for me — no — they did not 
know it! And they didn't think that HE chose the colour o' 
my pretty frock — no — how could they? If they had known 
perhaps they would not have cared, for they don't care much 
for him, poor thing!' 

Then she grieved for the beloved man whose conven- 
tional standard of judgement had caused her all these latter 
sorrows; and she went her way without knowing that the 
greatest misfortune of her life was this feminine loss of cour- 
age at the last and critical moment through her estimating 
her father-in-law by his sons. Her present condition was pre- 
cisely one which would have enlisted the sympathies of old 
Mr and Mrs Clare. Their hearts went out of them at a bound 
towards extreme cases, when the subtle mental troubles of 
the less desperate among mankind failed to win their in- 
terest or regard. In jumping at Publicans and Sinners they 
would forget that a word might be said for the worries of 
Scribes and Pharisees; and this defect or limitation might 



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have recommended their own daughter-in-law to them at 
this moment as a fairly choice sort of lost person for their 
love. 

Thereupon she began to plod back along the road by 
which she had come not altogether full of hope, but full of a 
conviction that a crisis in her life was approaching. No crisis, 
apparently, had supervened; and there was nothing left for 
her to do but to continue upon that starve-acre farm till she 
could again summon courage to face the Vicarage. She did, 
indeed, take sufficient interest in herself to throw up her veil 
on this return journey, as if to let the world see that she could 
at least exhibit a face such as Mercy Chant could not show. 
But it was done with a sorry shake of the head. 'It is noth- 
ing — it is nothing!' she said. 'Nobody loves it; nobody sees it. 
Who cares about the looks of a castaway like me!' 

Her journey back was rather a meander than a march. It 
had no sprightliness, no purpose; only a tendency. Along the 
tedious length of Benvill Lane she began to grow tired, and 
she leant upon gates and paused by milestones. 

She did not enter any house till, at the seventh or eighth 
mile, she descended the steep long hill below which lay the 
village or townlet of Evershead, where in the morning she 
had breakfasted with such contrasting expectations. The 
cottage by the church, in which she again sat down, was al- 
most the first at that end of the village, and while the woman 
fetched her some milk from the pantry, Tess, looking down 
the street, perceived that the place seemed quite deserted. 

'The people are gone to afternoon service, I suppose?' she 
said. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'No, my dear,' said the old woman. "Tis too soon for that; 
the bells hain't strook out yet. They be all gone to hear the 
preaching in yonder barn. A ranter preaches there between 
the services — an excellent, fiery, Christian man, they say. 
But, Lord, I don't go to hear'n! What comes in the regular 
way over the pulpit is hot enough for I.' 

Tess soon went onward into the village, her footsteps 
echoing against the houses as though it were a place of the 
dead. Nearing the central part, her echoes were intruded on 
by other sounds; and seeing the barn not far off the road, she 
guessed these to be the utterances of the preacher. 

His voice became so distinct in the still clear air that she 
could soon catch his sentences, though she was on the closed 
side of the barn. The sermon, as might be expected, was of 
the extremest antinomian type; on justification by faith, as 
expounded in the theology of St Paul. This fixed idea of the 
rhapsodist was delivered with animated enthusiasm, in a 
manner entirely declamatory, for he had plainly no skill as 
a dialectician. Although Tess had not heard the beginning 
of the address, she learnt what the text had been from its 
constant iteration — 

"0 foolish galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye 
should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ 
hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?' 

Tess was all the more interested, as she stood listening be- 
hind, in finding that the preacher's doctrine was a vehement 
form of the view of Angel's father, and her interest intensified 



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when the speaker began to detail his own spiritual experi- 
ences of how he had come by those views. He had, he said, 
been the greatest of sinners. He had scoffed; he had wantonly 
associated with the reckless and the lewd. But a day of awak- 
ening had come, and, in a human sense, it had been brought 
about mainly by the influence of a certain clergyman, whom 
he had at first grossly insulted; but whose parting words had 
sunk into his heart, and had remained there, till by the grace 
of Heaven they had worked this change in him, and made 
him what they saw him. 

But more startling to Tess than the doctrine had been the 
voice, which, impossible as it seemed, was precisely that of 
Alec d'Urberville. Her face fixed in painful suspense, she 
came round to the front of the barn, and passed before it. 
The low winter sun beamed directly upon the great double - 
doored entrance on this side; one of the doors being open, 
so that the rays stretched far in over the threshing-floor to 
the preacher and his audience, all snugly sheltered from the 
northern breeze. The listeners were entirely villagers, among 
them being the man whom she had seen carrying the red 
paint-pot on a former memorable occasion. But her atten- 
tion was given to the central figure, who stood upon some 
sacks of corn, facing the people and the door. The three 
o'clock sun shone full upon him, and the strange enervating 
conviction that her seducer confronted her, which had been 
gaining ground in Tess ever since she had heard his words 
distinctly, was at last established as a fact indeed. 

END OF PHASE THE FIFTH 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Phase the Sixth: 
The Convert 



XLV 

Till this moment she had never seen or heard from 
d'Urberville since her departure from Trantridge. 

The rencounter came at a heavy moment, one of all 
moments calculated to permit its impact with the least 
emotional shock. But such was unreasoning memory that, 
though he stood there openly and palpably a converted 
man, who was sorrowing for his past irregularities, a fear 
overcame her, paralyzing her movement so that she neither 
retreated nor advanced. 

To think of what emanated from that countenance when 
she saw it last, and to behold it now! ... There was the same 
handsome unpleasantness of mien, but now he wore neat- 
ly trimmed, old-fashioned whiskers, the sable moustache 
having disappeared; and his dress was half-clerical, a mod- 
ification which had changed his expression sufficiently to 
abstract the dandyism from his features, and to hinder for a 
second her belief in his identity. 

To Tess's sense there was, just at first, a ghastly bizarrerie, 
a grim incongruity, in the march of these solemn words of 
Scripture out of such a mouth. This too familiar intonation, 
less than four years earlier, had brought to her ears expres- 

FreeeBooksatPlaneteBook.com 445 



sions of such divergent purpose that her heart became quite 
sick at the irony of the contrast. 

It was less a reform than a transfiguration. The former 
curves of sensuousness were now modulated to lines of 
devotional passion. The lip-shapes that had meant seduc- 
tiveness were now made to express supplication; the glow 
on the cheek that yesterday could be translated as riotous- 
ness was evangelized to-day into the splendour of pious 
rhetoric; animalism had become fanaticism; Paganism, 
Paulinism; the bold rolling eye that had flashed upon her 
form in the old time with such mastery now beamed with 
the rude energy of a theolatry that was almost ferocious. 
Those black angularities which his face had used to put on 
when his wishes were thwarted now did duty in picturing 
the incorrigible backslider who would insist upon turning 
again to his wallowing in the mire. 

The lineaments, as such, seemed to complain. They had 
been diverted from their hereditary connotation to signify 
impressions for which Nature did not intend them. Strange 
that their very elevation was a misapplication, that to raise 
seemed to falsify. 

Yet could it be so? She would admit the ungenerous sen- 
timent no longer. D'Urberville was not the first wicked man 
who had turned away from his wickedness to save his soul 
alive, and why should she deem it unnatural in him? It was 
but the usage of thought which had been jarred in her at 
hearing good new words in bad old notes. The greater the 
sinner, the greater the saint; it was not necessary to dive far 
into Christian history to discover that. 



446 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Such impressions as these moved her vaguely, and with- 
out strict definiteness. As soon as the nerveless pause of her 
surprise would allow her to stir, her impulse was to pass on 
out of his sight. He had obviously not discerned her yet in 
her position against the sun. 

But the moment that she moved again he recognized her. 
The effect upon her old lover was electric, far stronger than 
the effect of his presence upon her. His fire, the tumultu- 
ous ring of his eloquence, seemed to go out of him. His lip 
struggled and trembled under the words that lay upon it; 
but deliver them it could not as long as she faced him. His 
eyes, after their first glance upon her face, hung confusedly 
in every other direction but hers, but came back in a desper- 
ate leap every few seconds. This paralysis lasted, however, 
but a short time; for Tess's energies returned with the atro- 
phy of his, and she walked as fast as she was able past the 
barn and onward. 

As soon as she could reflect, it appalled her, this change 
in their relative platforms. He who had wrought her undo- 
ing was now on the side of the Spirit, while she remained 
unregenerate. And, as in the legend, it had resulted that 
her Cyprian image had suddenly appeared upon his altar, 
whereby the fire of the priest had been well nigh extin- 
guished. 

She went on without turning her head. Her back seemed 
to be endowed with a sensitiveness to ocular beams — even 
her clothing — so alive was she to a fancied gaze which 
might be resting upon her from the outside of that barn. All 
the way along to this point her heart had been heavy with 



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an inactive sorrow; now there was a change in the quality 
of its trouble. That hunger for affection too long withheld 
was for the time displaced by an almost physical sense of an 
implacable past which still engirdled her. It intensified her 
consciousness of error to a practical despair; the break of 
continuity between her earlier and present existence, which 
she had hoped for, had not, after all, taken place. Bygones 
would never be complete bygones till she was a bygone her- 
self. 

Thus absorbed, she recrossed the northern part of Long- 
Ash Lane at right angles, and presently saw before her the 
road ascending whitely to the upland along whose mar- 
gin the remainder of her journey lay. Its dry pale surface 
stretched severely onward, unbroken by a single figure, 
vehicle, or mark, save some occasional brown horse-drop- 
pings which dotted its cold aridity here and there. While 
slowly breasting this ascent Tess became conscious of foot- 
steps behind her, and turning she saw approaching that 
well-known form — so strangely accoutred as the Method- 
ist — the one personage in all the world she wished not to 
encounter alone on this side of the grave. 

There was not much time, however, for thought or elu- 
sion, and she yielded as calmly as she could to the necessity 
of letting him overtake her. She saw that he was excited, less 
by the speed of his walk than by the feelings within him. 

'Tess!' he said. 

She slackened speed without looking round. 

'Tess!' he repeated. 'It is I — Alec d'Urberville.' 

She then looked back at him, and he came up. 



44s 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I see it is,' she answered coldly. 

'Well — is that all? Yet I deserve no more! Of course,' he 
added, with a slight laugh, 'there is something of the ridic- 
ulous to your eyes in seeing me like this. But — I must put 
up with that. ... I heard you had gone away; nobody knew 
where. Tess, you wonder why I have followed you?' 

'I do, rather; and I would that you had not, with all my 
heart!' 

'Yes — you may well say it,' he returned grimly, as they 
moved onward together, she with unwilling tread. 'But 
don't mistake me; I beg this because you may have been led 
to do so in noticing — if you did notice it — how your sudden 
appearance unnerved me down there. It was but a momen- 
tary faltering; and considering what you have been to me, it 
was natural enough. But will helped me through it — though 
perhaps you think me a humbug for saying it — and im- 
mediately afterwards I felt that of all persons in the world 
whom it was my duty and desire to save from the wrath to 
come — sneer if you like — the woman whom I had so griev- 
ously wronged was that person. I have come with that sole 
purpose in view — nothing more.' 

There was the smallest vein of scorn in her words of re- 
joinder: 'Have you saved yourself? Charity begins at home, 
they say.' 

'I have done nothing!' said he indifferently. 'Heaven, as 
I have been telling my hearers, has done all. No amount of 
contempt that you can pour upon me, Tess, will equal what 
I have poured upon myself — the old Adam of my former 
years! Well, it is a strange story; believe it or not; but I can 



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tell you the means by which my conversion was brought 
about, and I hope you will be interested enough at least to 
listen. Have you ever heard the name of the parson of Em- 
minster — you must have done do? — old Mr Clare; one of the 
most earnest of his school; one of the few intense men left 
in the Church; not so intense as the extreme wing of Chris- 
tian believers with which I have thrown in my lot, but quite 
an exception among the Established clergy, the younger of 
whom are gradually attenuating the true doctrines by their 
sophistries, till they are but the shadow of what they were. I 
only differ from him on the question of Church and State — 
the interpretation of the text, 'Come out from among them 
and be ye separate, saith the Lord' — that's all. He is one 
who, I firmly believe, has been the humble means of sav- 
ing more souls in this country than any other man you can 
name. You have heard of him?' 

'I have,' she said. 

'He came to Trantridge two or three years ago to preach 
on behalf of some missionary society; and I, wretched fel- 
low that I was, insulted him when, in his disinterestedness, 
he tried to reason with me and show me the way. He did not 
resent my conduct, he simply said that some day I should 
receive the first-fruits of the Spirit — that those who came 
to scoff sometimes remained to pray. There was a strange 
magic in his words. They sank into my mind. But the loss 
of my mother hit me most; and by degrees I was brought to 
see daylight. Since then my one desire has been to hand on 
the true view to others, and that is what I was trying to do 
to-day; though it is only lately that I have preached here- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



about. The first months of my ministry have been spent in 
the North of England among strangers, where I preferred to 
make my earliest clumsy attempts, so as to acquire courage 
before undergoing that severest of all tests of one's sincer- 
ity, addressing those who have known one, and have been 
one's companions in the days of darkness. If you could only 
know, Tess, the pleasure of having a good slap at yourself, I 
am sure — ' 

'Don't go on with it!' she cried passionately, as she turned 
away from him to a stile by the wayside, on which she bent 
herself. 'I can't believe in such sudden things! I feel indignant 
with you for talking to me like this, when you know — when 
you know what harm you've done me! You, and those like 
you, take your fill of pleasure on earth by making the life of 
such as me bitter and black with sorrow; and then it is a fine 
thing, when you have had enough of that, to think of secur- 
ing your pleasure in heaven by becoming converted! Out 
upon such — I don't believe in you — I hate it!' 

'Tess,' he insisted; 'don't speak so! It came to me like a 
jolly new idea! And you don't believe me? What don't you 
believe?' 

'Your conversion. Your scheme of religion.' 

'Why?' 

She dropped her voice. 'Because a better man than you 
does not believe in such.' 

'What a woman's reason! Who is this better man?' 

'I cannot tell you.' 

'Well,' he declared, a resentment beneath his words 
seeming ready to spring out at a moment's notice, 'God for- 



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bid that I should say I am a good man — and you know I 
don't say any such thing. I am new to goodness, truly; but 
newcomers see furthest sometimes.' 

'Yes,' she replied sadly. 'But I cannot believe in your con- 
version to a new spirit. Such flashes as you feel, Alec, I fear 
don't last!' 

Thus speaking she turned from the stile over which 
she had been leaning, and faced him; whereupon his eyes, 
falling casually upon the familiar countenance and form, 
remained contemplating her. The inferior man was quiet in 
him now; but it was surely not extracted, nor even entirely 
subdued. 

'Don't look at me like that!' he said abruptly. 

Tess, who had been quite unconscious of her action and 
mien, instantly withdrew the large dark gaze of her eyes, 
stammering with a flush, 'I beg your pardon!' And there 
was revived in her the wretched sentiment which had often 
come to her before, that in inhabiting the fleshly tabernacle 
with which Nature had endowed her she was somehow do- 
ing wrong. 

'No, no! Don't beg my pardon. But since you wear a veil 
to hide your good looks, why don't you keep it down?' 

She pulled down the veil, saying hastily, 'It was mostly to 
keep off the wind.' 

'It may seem harsh of me to dictate like this,' he went on; 
'but it is better that I should not look too often on you. It 
might be dangerous.' 

'Ssh!' said Tess. 

'Well, women's faces have had too much power over me 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



already for me not to fear them! An evangelist has nothing 
to do with such as they; and it reminds me of the old times 
that I would forget!' 

After this their conversation dwindled to a casual re- 
mark now and then as they rambled onward, Tess inwardly 
wondering how far he was going with her, and not liking to 
send him back by positive mandate. Frequently when they 
came to a gate or stile they found painted thereon in red or 
blue letters some text of Scripture, and she asked him if he 
knew who had been at the pains to blazon these announce- 
ments. He told her that the man was employed by himself 
and others who were working with him in that district, to 
paint these reminders that no means might be left untried 
which might move the hearts of a wicked generation. 

At length the road touched the spot called 'Cross-in- 
Hand.' Of all spots on the bleached and desolate upland this 
was the most forlorn. It was so far removed from the charm 
which is sought in landscape by artists and view-lovers as 
to reach a new kind of beauty, a negative beauty of trag- 
ic tone. The place took its name from a stone pillar which 
stood there, a strange rude monolith, from a stratum un- 
known in any local quarry, on which was roughly carved 
a human hand. Differing accounts were given of its history 
and purport. Some authorities stated that a devotional cross 
had once formed the complete erection thereon, of which 
the present relic was but the stump; others that the stone 
as it stood was entire, and that it had been fixed there to 
mark a boundary or place of meeting. Anyhow, whatever 
the origin of the relic, there was and is something sinister, 



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or solemn, according to mood, in the scene amid which it 
stands; something tending to impress the most phlegmatic 
passer-by. 

'I think I must leave you now,' he remarked, as they drew 
near to this spot. 'I have to preach at Abbot's-Cernel at six 
this evening, and my way lies across to the right from here. 
And you upset me somewhat too, Tessy — I cannot, will not, 
say why. I must go away and get strength. ... How is it that 
you speak so fluently now? Who has taught you such good 
English?' 

'I have learnt things in my troubles,' she said evasively. 

'What troubles have you had?' 

She told him of the first one — the only one that related 
to him. 

D'Urberville was struck mute. 'I knew nothing of this till 
now!' he next murmured. 'Why didn't you write to me when 
you felt your trouble coming on?' 

She did not reply; and he broke the silence by adding: 
Well — you will see me again.' 

'No,' she answered. 'Do not again come near me!' 

'I will think. But before we part come here.' He stepped 
up to the pillar. 'This was once a Holy Cross. Relics are not 
in my creed; but I fear you at moments — far more than you 
need fear me at present; and to lessen my fear, put your hand 
upon that stone hand, and swear that you will never tempt 
me — by your charms or ways.' 

'Good God — how can you ask what is so unnecessary! 
All that is furthest from my thought!' 

'Yes — but swear it.' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Tess, half frightened, gave way to his importunity; placed 
her hand upon the stone and swore. 

'I am sorry you are not a believer,' he continued; 'that 
some unbeliever should have got hold of you and unsettled 
your mind. But no more now. At home at least I can pray for 
you; and I will; and who knows what may not happen? I'm 
off. Goodbye!' 

He turned to a hunting-gate in the hedge and, without 
letting his eyes again rest upon her, leapt over and struck 
out across the down in the direction of Abbot's-Cernel. As 
he walked his pace showed perturbation, and by-and-by, as 
if instigated by a former thought, he drew from his pocket 
a small book, between the leaves of which was folded a let- 
ter, worn and soiled, as from much re-reading. D'Urberville 
opened the letter. It was dated several months before this 
time, and was signed by Parson Clare. 

The letter began by expressing the writer's unfeigned 
joy at d'Urberville's conversion, and thanked him for his 
kindness in communicating with the parson on the subject. 
It expressed Mr Clare's warm assurance of forgiveness for 
d'Urberville's former conduct and his interest in the young 
man's plans for the future. He, Mr Clare, would much have 
liked to see d'Urberville in the Church to whose ministry he 
had devoted so many years of his own life, and would have 
helped him to enter a theological college to that end; but 
since his correspondent had possibly not cared to do this on 
account of the delay it would have entailed, he was not the 
man to insist upon its paramount importance. Every man 
must work as he could best work, and in the method to- 



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wards which he felt impelled by the Spirit. 

D'Urberville read and re-read this letter, and seemed to 
quiz himself cynically. He also read some passages from 
memoranda as he walked till his face assumed a calm, and 
apparently the image of Tess no longer troubled his mind. 

She meanwhile had kept along the edge of the hill by 
which lay her nearest way home. Within the distance of a 
mile she met a solitary shepherd. 

'What is the meaning of that old stone I have passed?' she 
asked of him. Was it ever a Holy Cross?' 

'Cross — no; 'twer not a cross! 'Tis a thing of ill-omen, 
Miss. It was put up in wuld times by the relations of a male- 
factor who was tortured there by nailing his hand to a post 
and afterwards hung. The bones lie underneath. They say he 
sold his soul to the devil, and that he walks at times.' 

She felt the petite mort at this unexpectedly gruesome 
information, and left the solitary man behind her. It was 
dusk when she drew near to Flintcomb-Ash, and in the lane 
at the entrance to the hamlet she approached a girl and her 
lover without their observing her. They were talking no se- 
crets, and the clear unconcerned voice of the young woman, 
in response to the warmer accents of the man, spread into 
the chilly air as the one soothing thing within the dusky 
horizon, full of a stagnant obscurity upon which nothing 
else intruded. For a moment the voices cheered the heart of 
Tess, till she reasoned that this interview had its origin, on 
one side or the other, in the same attraction which had been 
the prelude to her own tribulation. When she came close, 
the girl turned serenely and recognized her, the young man 



45« 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



walking off in embarrassment. The woman was Izz Huett, 
whose interest in Tess's excursion immediately superseded 
her own proceedings. Tess did not explain very clearly its 
results, and Izz, who was a girl of tact, began to speak of her 
own little affair, a phase of which Tess had just witnessed. 

'He is Amby Seedling, the chap who used to sometimes 
come and help at Talbothays,' she explained indifferently. 
'He actually inquired and found out that I had come here, 
and has followed me. He says he's been in love wi' me these 
two years. But I've hardly answered him.' 



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XLVI 



Several days had passed since her futile journey, and Tess 
was afield. The dry winter wind still blew, but a screen of 
thatched hurdles erected in the eye of the blast kept its force 
away from her. On the sheltered side was a turnip-slicing 
machine, whose bright blue hue of new paint seemed almost 
vocal in the otherwise subdued scene. Opposite its front was 
a long mound or 'grave', in which the roots had been pre- 
served since early winter. Tess was standing at the uncovered 
end, chopping off with a bill-hook the fibres and earth from 
each root, and throwing it after the operation into the slicer. 
A man was turning the handle of the machine, and from its 
trough came the newly-cut swedes, the fresh smell of whose 
yellow chips was accompanied by the sounds of the snuf- 
fling wind, the smart swish of the slicing-blades, and the 
choppings of the hook in Tess's leather-gloved hand. 

The wide acreage of blank agricultural brownness, ap- 
parent where the swedes had been pulled, was beginning 
to be striped in wales of darker brown, gradually broaden- 
ing to ribands. Along the edge of each of these something 
crept upon ten legs, moving without haste and without rest 
up and down the whole length of the field; it was two horses 
and a man, the plough going between them, turning up the 
cleared ground for a spring sowing. 

For hours nothing relieved the joyless monotony of 



45 8 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



things. Then, far beyond the ploughing-teams, a black speck 
was seen. It had come from the corner of a fence, where there 
was a gap, and its tendency was up the incline, towards the 
swede-cutters. From the proportions of a mere point it ad- 
vanced to the shape of a ninepin, and was soon perceived to 
be a man in black, arriving from the direction of Flintcomb- 
Ash. The man at the slicer, having nothing else to do with 
his eyes, continually observed the comer, but Tess, who was 
occupied, did not perceive him till her companion directed 
her attention to his approach. 

It was not her hard taskmaster, Farmer Groby; it was one 
in a semi-clerical costume, who now represented what had 
once been the free-and-easy Alec d'Urberville. Not being 
hot at his preaching there was less enthusiasm about him 
now, and the presence of the grinder seemed to embar- 
rass him. A pale distress was already on Tess's face, and she 
pulled her curtained hood further over it. 

D'Urberville came up and said quietly — 

'I want to speak to you, Tess.' 

'You have refused my last request, not to come near me!' 
said she. 

'Yes, but I have a good reason.' 

'Well, tell it.' 

'It is more serious than you may think.' 

He glanced round to see if he were overheard. They were 
at some distance from the man who turned the slicer, and 
the movement of the machine, too, sufficiently prevented 
Alec's words reaching other ears. D'Urberville placed him- 
self so as to screen Tess from the labourer, turning his back 



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to the latter. 

'It is this,' he continued, with capricious compunction. 
'In thinking of your soul and mine when we last met, I ne- 
glected to inquire as to your worldly condition. You were 
well dressed, and I did not think of it. But I see now that 
it is hard — harder than it used to be when I — knew you — 
harder than you deserve. Perhaps a good deal of it is owning 
to me!' 

She did not answer, and he watched her inquiringly, as, 
with bent head, her face completely screened by the hood, 
she resumed her trimming of the swedes. By going on with 
her work she felt better able to keep him outside her emo- 
tions. 

'Tess,' he added, with a sigh of discontent, — 'yours was 
the very worst case I ever was concerned in! I had no idea of 
what had resulted till you told me. Scamp that I was to foul 
that innocent life! The whole blame was mine — the whole 
unconventional business of our time at Trantridge. You, 
too, the real blood of which I am but the base imitation, 
what a blind young thing you were as to possibilities! I say 
in all earnestness that it is a shame for parents to bring up 
their girls in such dangerous ignorance of the gins and nets 
that the wicked may set for them, whether their motive be a 
good one or the result of simple indifference.' 

Tess still did no more than listen, throwing down one 
globular root and taking up another with automatic reg- 
ularity, the pensive contour of the mere fieldwoman alone 
marking her. 

'But it is not that I came to say' d'Urberville went on. 'My 



460 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



circumstances are these. I have lost my mother since you 
were at Trantridge, and the place is my own. But I intend 
to sell it, and devote myself to missionary work in Africa. 
A devil of a poor hand I shall make at the trade, no doubt. 
However, what I want to ask you is, will you put it in my 
power to do my duty — to make the only reparation I can 
make for the trick played you: that is, will you be my wife, 
and go with me? ... I have already obtained this precious 
document. It was my old mother's dying wish.' 

He drew a piece of parchment from his pocket, with a 
slight fumbling of embarrassment. 

'What is it?' said she. 

A marriage licence.' 

'O no, sir — no!' she said quickly, starting back. 

'You will not? Why is that?' 

And as he asked the question a disappointment which 
was not entirely the disappointment of thwarted duty 
crossed d'Urberville 's face. It was unmistakably a symptom 
that something of his old passion for her had been revived; 
duty and desire ran hand-in-hand. 

'Surely' he began again, in more impetuous tones, and 
then looked round at the labourer who turned the sheer. 

Tess, too, felt that the argument could not be ended 
there. Informing the man that a gentleman had come to see 
her, with whom she wished to walk a little way, she moved 
off with d'Urberville across the zebra-striped field. When 
they reached the first newly-ploughed section he held out 
his hand to help her over it; but she stepped forward on the 
summits of the earth-rolls as if she did not see him. 



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461 



'You will not marry me, Tess, and make me a self-re- 
specting man?' he repeated, as soon as they were over the 
furrows. 

'I cannot.' 

'But why?' 

'You know I have no affection for you.' 

'But you would get to feel that in time, perhaps — as soon 
as you really could forgive me?' 

'Never!' 

'Why so positive?' 

'I love somebody else.' 

The words seemed to astonish him. 

'You do?' he cried. 'Somebody else? But has not a sense of 
what is morally right and proper any weight with you?' 

'No, no, no — don't say that!' 

'Anyhow, then, your love for this other man may be only 
a passing feeling which you will overcome — ' 

'No — no.' 

'Yes, yes! Why not?' 

'I cannot tell you.' 

'You must in honour!' 

Well then ... I have married him.' 

'Ah!' he exclaimed; and he stopped dead and gazed at 
her. 

'I did not wish to tell — I did not mean to!' she pleaded. 'It 
is a secret here, or at any rate but dimly known. So will you, 
PLEASE will you, keep from questioning me? You must re- 
member that we are now strangers.' 

'Strangers — are we? Strangers!' 



462 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



For a moment a flash of his old irony marked his face; but 
he determinedly chastened it down. 

'Is that man your husband?' he asked mechanically, de- 
noting by a sign the labourer who turned the machine. 

'That man!' she said proudly. 'I should think not!' 

'Who, then?' 

'Do not ask what I do not wish to tell!' she begged, and 
flashed her appeal to him from her upturned face and lash- 
shadowed eyes. 

D'Urberville was disturbed. 

'But I only asked for your sake!' he retorted hotly. Angels 
of heaven! — God forgive me for such an expression — I came 
here, I swear, as I thought for your good. Tess — don't look 
at me so — I cannot stand your looks! There never were such 
eyes, surely, before Christianity or since! There — I won't lose 
my head; I dare not. I own that the sight of you had waked 
up my love for you, which, I believed, was extinguished with 
all such feelings. But I thought that our marriage might be 
a sanctification for us both. 'The unbelieving husband is 
sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sancti- 
fied by the husband,' I said to myself. But my plan is dashed 
from me; and I must bear the disappointment!' 

He moodily reflected with his eyes on the ground. 

'Married. Married! ... Well, that being so,' he added, 
quite calmly, tearing the licence slowly into halves and put- 
ting them in his pocket; 'that being prevented, I should like 
to do some good to you and your husband, whoever he may 
be. There are many questions that I am tempted to ask, but 
I will not do so, of course, in opposition to your wishes. 



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463 



Though, if I could know your husband, I might more easily 
benefit him and you. Is he on this farm?' 

'No,' she murmured. 'He is far away.' 

'Far away? From YOU? What sort of husband can he 
be?' 

'O, do not speak against him! It was through you! He 
found out — ' 

'Ah, is it so! ... That's sad, Tess!' 

'Yes.' 

'But to stay away from you — to leave you to work like 
this!' 

'He does not leave me to work!' she cried, springing to 
the defence of the absent one with all her fervour. 'He don't 
know it! It is by my own arrangement.' 

'Then, does he write?' 

'I — I cannot tell you. There are things which are private 
to ourselves.' 

'Of course that means that he does not. You are a desert- 
ed wife, my fair Tess — ' 

In an impulse he turned suddenly to take her hand; the 
buff-glove was on it, and he seized only the rough leather 
fingers which did not express the life or shape of those with- 
in. 

'You must not — you must not!' she cried fearfully, slip- 
ping her hand from the glove as from a pocket, and leaving 
it in his grasp. 'O, will you go away — for the sake of me and 
my husband — go, in the name of your own Christianity!' 

'Yes, yes; I will,' he said abruptly, and thrusting the glove 
back to her he turned to leave. Facing round, however, he 



464 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



said, 'Tess, as God is my judge, I meant no humbug in tak- 
ing your hand!' 

A pattering of hoofs on the soil of the field, which they 
had not noticed in their preoccupation, ceased close behind 
them; and a voice reached her ear: 

'What the devil are you doing away from your work at 
this time o' day?' 

Farmer Groby had espied the two figures from the dis- 
tance, and had inquisitively ridden across, to learn what was 
their business in his field. 

'Don't speak like that to her!' said d'Urberville, his face 
blackening with something that was not Christianity. 

'Indeed, Mister! And what mid Methodist pa'sons have 
to do with she?' 

'Who is the fellow?' asked d'Urberville, turning to Tess. 

She went close up to him. 

'Go — I do beg you!' she said. 

'What! And leave you to that tyrant? I can see in his face 
what a churl he is.' 

'He won't hurt me. HE'S not in love with me. I can leave 
at Lady-Day.' 

'Well, I have no right but to obey, I suppose. But — well, 
goodbye!' 

Her defender, whom she dreaded more than her assail- 
ant, having reluctantly disappeared, the farmer continued 
his reprimand, which Tess took with the greatest coolness, 
that sort of attack being independent of sex. To have as a 
master this man of stone, who would have cuffed her if he 
had dared, was almost a relief after her former experienc- 



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465 



es. She silently walked back towards the summit of the field 
that was the scene of her labour, so absorbed in the inter- 
view which had just taken place that she was hardly aware 
that the nose of Groby's horse almost touched her shoul- 
ders. 

'If so be you make an agreement to work for me till Lady- 
Day, I'll see that you carry it out,' he growled. "Od rot the 
women — now 'tis one thing, and then 'tis another. But I'll 
put up with it no longer!' 

Knowing very well that he did not harass the other wom- 
en of the farm as he harassed her out of spite for the flooring 
he had once received, she did for one moment picture what 
might have been the result if she had been free to accept 
the offer just made her of being the monied Alec's wife. It 
would have lifted her completely out of subjection, not only 
to her present oppressive employer, but to a whole world 
who seemed to despise her. 'But no, no!' she said breathless- 
ly; 'I could not have married him now! He is so unpleasant 
to me.' 

That very night she began an appealing letter to Clare, 
concealing from him her hardships, and assuring him of 
her undying affection. Any one who had been in a position 
to read between the lines would have seen that at the back 
of her great love was some monstrous fear — almost a des- 
peration — as to some secret contingencies which were not 
disclosed. But again she did not finish her effusion; he had 
asked Izz to go with him, and perhaps he did not care for 
her at all. She put the letter in her box, and wondered if it 
would ever reach Angel's hands. 



466 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



After this her daily tasks were gone through heavily 
enough, and brought on the day which was of great import 
to agriculturists — the day of the Candlemas Fair. It was at 
this fair that new engagements were entered into for the 
twelve months following the ensuing Lady-Day, and those 
of the farming population who thought of changing their 
places duly attended at the county-town where the fair was 
held. Nearly all the labourers on Flintcomb-Ash farm in- 
tended flight, and early in the morning there was a general 
exodus in the direction of the town, which lay at a distance 
of from ten to a dozen miles over hilly country. Though 
Tess also meant to leave at the quarter-day, she was one of 
the few who did not go to the fair, having a vaguely-shaped 
hope that something would happen to render another out- 
door engagement unnecessary. 

It was a peaceful February day, of wonderful softness for 
the time, and one would almost have thought that winter was 
over. She had hardly finished her dinner when d'Urberville's 
figure darkened the window of the cottage wherein she was 
a lodger, which she had all to herself to-day. 

Tess jumped up, but her visitor had knocked at the door, 
and she could hardly in reason run away. D'Urberville's 
knock, his walk up to the door, had some indescribable 
quality of difference from his air when she last saw him. 
They seemed to be acts of which the doer was ashamed. She 
thought that she would not open the door; but, as there was 
no sense in that either, she arose, and having lifted the latch 
stepped back quickly. He came in, saw her, and flung him- 
self down into a chair before speaking. 



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467 



'Tess — I couldn't help it!' he began desperately, as he 
wiped his heated face, which had also a superimposed flush 
of excitement. 'I felt that I must call at least to ask how you 
are. I assure you I had not been thinking of you at all till I 
saw you that Sunday; now I cannot get rid of your image, try 
how I may! It is hard that a good woman should do harm to 
a bad man; yet so it is. If you would only pray for me, Tess!' 

The suppressed discontent of his manner was almost 
pitiable, and yet Tess did not pity him. 

'How can I pray for you,' she said, 'when I am forbidden 
to believe that the great Power who moves the world would 
alter His plans on my account?' 

'You really think that?' 

'Yes. I have been cured of the presumption of thinking 
otherwise.' 

'Cured? By whom?' 

'By my husband, if I must tell.' 

'Ah — your husband — your husband! How strange it 
seems! I remember you hinted something of the sort the 
other day. What do you really believe in these matters, 
Tess?' he asked. 'You seem to have no religion — perhaps ow- 
ing to me.' 

'But I have. Though I don't believe in anything super- 
natural.' 

D'Urberville looked at her with misgiving. 

'Then do you think that the line I take is all wrong?' 

'A good deal of it.' 

'H'm — and yet I've felt so sure about it,' he said uneasily. 

'I believe in the SPIRIT of the Sermon on the Mount, and 



468 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



so did my dear husband... But I don't believe — ' 

Here she gave her negations. 

'The fact is,' said d'Urberville drily, 'whatever your dear 
husband believed you accept, and whatever he rejected you 
reject, without the least inquiry or reasoning on your own 
part. That's just like you women. Your mind is enslaved to 
his.' 

Ah, because he knew everything!' said she, with a tri- 
umphant simplicity of faith in Angel Clare that the most 
perfect man could hardly have deserved, much less her hus- 
band. 

'Yes, but you should not take negative opinions whole- 
sale from another person like that. A pretty fellow he must 
be to teach you such scepticism!' 

'He never forced my judgement! He would never argue 
on the subject with me! But I looked at it in this way; what 
he believed, after inquiring deep into doctrines, was much 
more likely to be right than what I might believe, who hadn't 
looked into doctrines at all.' 

'What used he to say? He must have said something?' 

She reflected; and with her acute memory for the letter of 
Angel Clare's remarks, even when she did not comprehend 
their spirit, she recalled a merciless polemical syllogism 
that she had heard him use when, as it occasionally hap- 
pened, he indulged in a species of thinking aloud with her 
at his side. In delivering it she gave also Clare's accent and 
manner with reverential faithfulness. 

'Say that again,' asked d'Urberville, who had listened 
with the greatest attention. 



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469 



She repeated the argument, and d'Urberville thought- 
fully murmured the words after her. 

'Anything else?' he presently asked. 

'He said at another time something like this"; and she 
gave another, which might possibly have been paralleled in 
many a work of the pedigree ranging from the Dictionnaire 
Philosophique to Huxley's Essays. 

'Ah — ha! How do you remember them?' 

'I wanted to believe what he believed, though he didn't 
wish me to; and I managed to coax him to tell me a few of 
his thoughts. I can't say I quite understand that one; but I 
know it is right.' 

'H'm. Fancy your being able to teach me what you don't 
know yourself!' 

He fell into thought. 

And so I threw in my spiritual lot with his,' she resumed. 
'I didn't wish it to be different. What's good enough for him 
is good enough for me.' 

'Does he know that you are as big an infidel as he?' 

'No — I never told him — if I am an infidel.' 

'Well — you are better off to-day that I am, Tess, after all! 
You don't believe that you ought to preach my doctrine, and, 
therefore, do no despite to your conscience in abstaining. I 
do believe I ought to preach it, but, like the devils, I believe 
and tremble, for I suddenly leave off preaching it, and give 
way to my passion for you.' 

'How?' 

'Why' he said aridly; 'I have come all the way here to 
see you to-day! But I started from home to go to Caster- 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



bridge Fair, where I have undertaken to preach the Word 
from a waggon at half-past two this afternoon, and where 
all the brethren are expecting me this minute. Here's the 
announcement.' 

He drew from his breast-pocket a poster whereon was 
printed the day, hour, and place of meeting, at which he, 
d'Urberville, would preach the Gospel as aforesaid. 

'But how can you get there?' said Tess, looking at the 
clock. 

'I cannot get there! I have come here.' 

'What, you have really arranged to preach, and — ' 

'I have arranged to preach, and I shall not be there — by 
reason of my burning desire to see a woman whom I once 
despised! — No, by my word and truth, I never despised you; 
if I had I should not love you now! Why I did not despise 
you was on account of your being unsmirched in spite of all; 
you withdrew yourself from me so quickly and resolutely 
when you saw the situation; you did not remain at my plea- 
sure; so there was one petticoat in the world for whom I had 
no contempt, and you are she. But you may well despise me 
now! I thought I worshipped on the mountains, but I find I 
still serve in the groves! Ha! ha!' 

'O Alec d'Urberville! what does this mean? What have 
I done!' 

'Done?' he said, with a soulless sneer in the word. 
'Nothing intentionally. But you have been the means — the 
innocent means — of my backsliding, as they call it. I ask 
myself, am I, indeed, one of those 'servants of corruption' 
who, 'after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, 



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are again entangled therein and overcome' — whose latter 
end is worse than their beginning?' He laid his hand on her 
shoulder. 'Tess, my girl, I was on the way to, at least, social 
salvation till I saw you again!' he said freakishly shaking 
her, as if she were a child. 'And why then have you tempted 
me? I was firm as a man could be till I saw those eyes and 
that mouth again — surely there never was such a madden- 
ing mouth since Eve's!' His voice sank, and a hot archness 
shot from his own black eyes. 'You temptress, Tess; you dear 
damned witch of Babylon — I could not resist you as soon as 
I met you again!' 

'I couldn't help your seeing me again!' said Tess, recoil- 
ing. 

'I know it — I repeat that I do not blame you. But the fact 
remains. When I saw you ill-used on the farm that day I 
was nearly mad to think that I had no legal right to protect 
you — that I could not have it; whilst he who has it seems to 
neglect you utterly!' 

'Don't speak against him — he is absent!' she cried in 
much excitement. 'Treat him honourably — he has never 
wronged you! O leave his wife before any scandal spreads 
that may do harm to his honest name!' 

'I will — I will,' he said, like a man awakening from a lur- 
ing dream. 'I have broken my engagement to preach to those 
poor drunken boobies at the fair — it is the first time I have 
played such a practical joke. A month ago I should have 
been horrified at such a possibility. I'll go away — to swear — 
and — ah, can I! to keep away.' Then, suddenly: 'One clasp, 
Tessy — one! Only for old friendship — ' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I am without defence. Alec! A good man's honour is in 
my keeping — think — be ashamed!' 

'Pooh! Well, yes — yes!' 

He clenched his lips, mortified with himself for his weak- 
ness. His eyes were equally barren of worldly and religious 
faith. The corpses of those old fitful passions which had lain 
inanimate amid the lines of his face ever since his reforma- 
tion seemed to wake and come together as in a resurrection. 
He went out indeterminately. 

Though d'Urberville had declared that this breach of his 
engagement to-day was the simple backsliding of a believ- 
er, Tess's words, as echoed from Angel Clare, had made a 
deep impression upon him, and continued to do so after he 
had left her. He moved on in silence, as if his energies were 
benumbed by the hitherto undreamt-of possibility that 
his position was untenable. Reason had had nothing to do 
with his whimsical conversion, which was perhaps the mere 
freak of a careless man in search of a new sensation, and 
temporarily impressed by his mother's death. 

The drops of logic Tess had let fall into the sea of his en- 
thusiasm served to chill its effervescence to stagnation. He 
said to himself, as he pondered again and again over the 
crystallized phrases that she had handed on to him, 'That 
clever fellow little thought that, by telling her those things, 
he might be paving my way back to her!' 



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XLVII 



It is the threshing of the last wheat-rick at Flintcomb-Ash 
farm. The dawn of the March morning is singularly inex- 
pressive, and there is nothing to show where the eastern 
horizon lies. Against the twilight rises the trapezoidal top of 
the stack, which has stood forlornly here through the wash- 
ing and bleaching of the wintry weather. 

When Izz Huett and Tess arrived at the scene of opera- 
tions only a rustling denoted that others had preceded them; 
to which, as the light increased, there were presently added 
the silhouettes of two men on the summit. They were bus- 
ily 'unhaling' the rick, that is, stripping off the thatch before 
beginning to throw down the sheaves; and while this was 
in progress Izz and Tess, with the other women-workers, in 
their whitey-brown pinners, stood waiting and shivering, 
Farmer Groby having insisted upon their being on the spot 
thus early to get the job over if possible by the end of the day. 
Close under the eaves of the stack, and as yet barely visible, 
was the red tyrant that the women had come to serve — a 
timber-framed construction, with straps and wheels ap- 
pertaining — the threshing-machine which, whilst it was 
going, kept up a despotic demand upon the endurance of 
their muscles and nerves. 

A little way off there was another indistinct figure; this 
one black, with a sustained hiss that spoke of strength very 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



much in reserve. The long chimney running up beside an 
ash-tree, and the warmth which radiated from the spot, ex- 
plained without the necessity of much daylight that here was 
the engine which was to act as the primum mobile of this 
little world. By the engine stood a dark, motionless being, a 
sooty and grimy embodiment of tallness, in a sort of trance, 
with a heap of coals by his side: it was the engine-man. The 
isolation of his manner and colour lent him the appearance 
of a creature from Tophet, who had strayed into the pellucid 
smokelessness of this region of yellow grain and pale soil, 
with which he had nothing in common, to amaze and to 
discompose its aborigines. 

What he looked he felt. He was in the agricultural world, 
but not of it. He served fire and smoke; these denizens of the 
fields served vegetation, weather, frost, and sun. He travelled 
with his engine from farm to farm, from county to county, 
for as yet the steam threshing-machine was itinerant in this 
part of Wessex. He spoke in a strange northern accent; his 
thoughts being turned inwards upon himself, his eye on his 
iron charge, hardly perceiving the scenes around him, and 
caring for them not at all: holding only strictly necessary 
intercourse with the natives, as if some ancient doom com- 
pelled him to wander here against his will in the service of 
his Plutonic master. The long strap which ran from the driv- 
ing-wheel of his engine to the red thresher under the rick 
was the sole tie-line between agriculture and him. 

While they uncovered the sheaves he stood apathetic 
beside his portable repository of force, round whose hot 
blackness the morning air quivered. He had nothing to do 



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with preparatory labour. His fire was waiting incandescent, 
his steam was at high pressure, in a few seconds he could 
make the long strap move at an invisible velocity. Beyond 
its extent the environment might be corn, straw, or chaos; it 
was all the same to him. If any of the autochthonous idlers 
asked him what he called himself, he replied shortly, 'an en- 
gineer.' 

The rick was unhaled by full daylight; the men then took 
their places, the women mounted, and the work began. 
Farmer Groby — or, as they called him, 'he' — had arrived 
ere this, and by his orders Tess was placed on the platform 
of the machine, close to the man who fed it, her business 
being to untie every sheaf of corn handed on to her by Izz 
Huett, who stood next, but on the rick; so that the feeder 
could seize it and spread it over the revolving drum, which 
whisked out every grain in one moment. 

They were soon in full progress, after a preparatory hitch 
or two, which rejoiced the hearts of those who hated ma- 
chinery. The work sped on till breakfast time, when the 
thresher was stopped for half an hour; and on starting again 
after the meal the whole supplementary strength of the farm 
was thrown into the labour of constructing the straw-rick, 
which began to grow beside the stack of corn. A hasty lunch 
was eaten as they stood, without leaving their positions, and 
then another couple of hours brought them near to din- 
ner-time; the inexorable wheel continuing to spin, and the 
penetrating hum of the thresher to thrill to the very marrow 
all who were near the revolving wire-cage. 

The old men on the rising straw-rick talked of the past 



4/6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



days when they had been accustomed to thresh with flails 
on the oaken barn-floor; when everything, even to winnow- 
ing, was effected by hand-labour, which, to their thinking, 
though slow, produced better results. Those, too, on the 
corn-rick talked a little; but the perspiring ones at the ma- 
chine, including Tess, could not lighten their duties by the 
exchange of many words. It was the ceaselessness of the 
work which tried her so severely, and began to make her 
wish that she had never some to Flintcomb-Ash. The women 
on the corn-rick — Marian, who was one of them, in partic- 
ular — could stop to drink ale or cold tea from the flagon 
now and then, or to exchange a few gossiping remarks while 
they wiped their faces or cleared the fragments of straw and 
husk from their clothing; but for Tess there was no respite; 
for, as the drum never stopped, the man who fed it could 
not stop, and she, who had to supply the man with untied 
sheaves, could not stop either, unless Marian changed plac- 
es with her, which she sometimes did for half an hour in 
spite of Groby 's objections that she was too slow-handed for 
a feeder. 

For some probably economical reason it was usually a 
woman who was chosen for this particular duty, and Gro- 
by gave as his motive in selecting Tess that she was one of 
those who best combined strength with quickness in unty- 
ing, and both with staying power, and this may have been 
true. The hum of the thresher, which prevented speech, in- 
creased to a raving whenever the supply of corn fell short 
of the regular quantity. As Tess and the man who fed could 
never turn their heads she did not know that just before the 



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dinner-hour a person had come silently into the field by the 
gate, and had been standing under a second rick watching 
the scene and Tess in particular. He was dressed in a tweed 
suit of fashionable pattern, and he twirled a gay walking- 
cane. 

'Who is that?' said Izz Huett to Marian. She had at first 
addressed the inquiry to Tess, but the latter could not hear 
it. 

'Somebody's fancy-man, I s'pose,' said Marian laconi- 
cally. 

'I'll lay a guinea he's after Tess.' 

'O no. 'Tis a ranter pa'son who's been sniffing after her 
lately; not a dandy like this.' 

'Well — this is the same man.' 

'The same man as the preacher? But he's quite different!' 

'He hev left off his black coat and white neckercher, and 
hev cut off his whiskers; but he's the same man for all that.' 

'D'ye really think so? Then I'll tell her,' said Marian. 

'Don't. She'll see him soon enough, good-now.' 

Well, I don't think it at all right for him to join his 
preaching to courting a married woman, even though her 
husband mid be abroad, and she, in a sense, a widow.' 

'Oh — he can do her no harm,' said Izz drily. 'Her mind 
can no more be heaved from that one place where it do bide 
than a stooded waggon from the hole he's in. Lord love 'ee, 
neither court-paying, nor preaching, nor the seven thun- 
ders themselves, can wean a woman when 'twould be better 
for her that she should be weaned.' 

Dinner-time came, and the whirling ceased; whereupon 



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Tess left her post, her knees trembling so wretchedly with 
the shaking of the machine that she could scarcely walk. 

'You ought to het a quart o' drink into 'ee, as I've done,' 
said Marian. 'You wouldn't look so white then. Why, souls 
above us, your face is as if you'd been hagrode!' 

It occurred to the good-natured Marian that, as Tess was 
so tired, her discovery of her visitor's presence might have 
the bad effect of taking away her appetite; and Marian was 
thinking of inducing Tess to descend by a ladder on the fur- 
ther side of the stack when the gentleman came forward and 
looked up. 

Tess uttered a short little 'Oh!' And a moment after 
she said, quickly, 'I shall eat my dinner here — right on the 
rick.' 

Sometimes, when they were so far from their cottages, 
they all did this; but as there was rather a keen wind going 
to-day, Marian and the rest descended, and sat under the 
straw-stack. 

The newcomer was, indeed, Alec d'Urberville, the late 
Evangelist, despite his changed attire and aspect. It was ob- 
vious at a glance that the original Weltlust had come back; 
that he had restored himself, as nearly as a man could do 
who had grown three or four years older, to the old jaun- 
ty, slapdash guise under which Tess had first known her 
admirer, and cousin so-called. Having decided to remain 
where she was, Tess sat down among the bundles, out of 
sight of the ground, and began her meal; till, by-and-by, she 
heard footsteps on the ladder, and immediately after Alec 
appeared upon the stack — now an oblong and level platform 



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of sheaves. He strode across them, and sat down opposite of 
her without a word. 

Tess continued to eat her modest dinner, a slice of thick 
pancake which she had brought with her. The other work- 
folk were by this time all gathered under the rick, where the 
loose straw formed a comfortable retreat. 

'I am here again, as you see,' said d'Urberville. 

'Why do you trouble me so!' she cried, reproach flashing 
from her very finger-ends. 

'I trouble YOU? I think I may ask, why do you trouble 
me?' 

'Sure, I don't trouble you any- when!' 

'You say you don't? But you do! You haunt me. Those very 
eyes that you turned upon my with such a bitter flash a mo- 
ment ago, they come to me just as you showed them then, 
in the night and in the day! Tess, ever since you told me 
of that child of ours, it is just as if my feelings, which have 
been flowing in a strong puritanical stream, had suddenly 
found a way open in the direction of you, and had all at once 
gushed through. The religious channel is left dry forthwith; 
and it is you who have done it!' 

She gazed in silence. 

'What — you have given up your preaching entirely?' she 
asked. She had gathered from Angel sufficient of the incre- 
dulity of modern thought to despise flash enthusiasm; but, 
as a woman, she was somewhat appalled. 

In affected severity d'Urberville continued — 

'Entirely. I have broken every engagement since that af- 
ternoon I was to address the drunkards at Casterbridge Fair. 



4»o 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



The deuce only knows what I am thought of by the breth- 
ren. Ah-ha! The brethren! No doubt they pray for me — weep 
for me; for they are kind people in their way. But what do 
I care? How could I go on with the thing when I had lost 
my faith in it? — it would have been hypocrisy of the bas- 
est kind! Among them I should have stood like Hymenaeus 
and Alexander, who were delivered over to Satan that they 
might learn not to blaspheme. What a grand revenge you 
have taken! I saw you innocent, and I deceived you. Four 
years after, you find me a Christian enthusiast; you then 
work upon me, perhaps to my complete perdition! But Tess, 
my coz, as I used to call you, this is only my way of talk- 
ing, and you must not look so horribly concerned. Of course 
you have done nothing except retain your pretty face and 
shapely figure. I saw it on the rick before you saw me — that 
tight pinafore-thing sets it off, and that wing-bonnet — you 
field-girls should never wear those bonnets if you wish to 
keep out of danger.' He regarded her silently for a few mo- 
ments, and with a short cynical laugh resumed: 'I believe 
that if the bachelor-apostle, whose deputy I thought I was, 
had been tempted by such a pretty face, he would have let go 
the plough for her sake as I do!' 

Tess attempted to expostulate, but at this juncture all her 
fluency failed her, and without heeding he added: 

'Well, this paradise that you supply is perhaps as good as 
any other, after all. But to speak seriously, Tess.' D'Urberville 
rose and came nearer, reclining sideways amid the sheaves, 
and resting upon his elbow. 'Since I last saw you, I have been 
thinking of what you said that HE said. I have come to the 



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481 



conclusion that there does seem rather a want of common- 
sense in these threadbare old propositions; how I could have 
been so fired by poor Parson Clare's enthusiasm, and have 
gone so madly to work, transcending even him, I cannot 
make out! As for what you said last time, on the strength 
of your wonderful husband's intelligence — whose name you 
have never told me — about having what they call an ethi- 
cal system without any dogma, I don't see my way to that 
at all' 

'Why, you can have the religion of loving-kindness and 
purity at least, if you can't have — what do you call it — dog- 
ma.' 

'O no! I'm a different sort of fellow from that! If there's 
nobody to say, 'Do this, and it will be a good thing for you 
after you are dead; do that, and if will be a bad thing for you,' 
I can't warm up. Hang it, I am not going to feel responsible 
for my deeds and passions if there's nobody to be respon- 
sible to; and if I were you, my dear, I wouldn't either!' 

She tried to argue, and tell him that he had mixed in 
his dull brain two matters, theology and morals, which in 
the primitive days of mankind had been quite distinct. But 
owing to Angel Clare's reticence, to her absolute want of 
training, and to her being a vessel of emotions rather than 
reasons, she could not get on. 

'Well, never mind,' he resumed. 'Here I am, my love, as 
in the old times!' 

'Not as then — never as then — 'tis different!' she entreat- 
ed. And there was never warmth with me! O why didn't you 
keep your faith, if the loss of it has brought you to speak to 



482 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



me like this!' 

'Because you've knocked it out of me; so the evil be upon 
your sweet head! Your husband little thought how his teach- 
ing would recoil upon him! Ha-ha — I'm awfully glad you 
have made an apostate of me all the same! Tess, I am more 
taken with you than ever, and I pity you too. For all your 
closeness, I see you are in a bad way — neglected by one who 
ought to cherish you.' 

She could not get her morsels of food down her throat; 
her lips were dry, and she was ready to choke. The voices 
and laughs of the workfolk eating and drinking under the 
rick came to her as if they were a quarter of a mile off. 

'It is cruelty to me!' she said. 'How — how can you treat 
me to this talk, if you care ever so little for me?' 

'True, true,' he said, wincing a little. 'I did not come to 
reproach you for my deeds. I came Tess, to say that I don't 
like you to be working like this, and I have come on purpose 
for you. You say you have a husband who is not I. Well, per- 
haps you have; but I've never seen him, and you've not told 
me his name; and altogether he seems rather a mythologi- 
cal personage. However, even if you have one, I think I am 
nearer to you than he is. I, at any rate, try to help you out of 
trouble, but he does not, bless his invisible face! The words 
of the stern prophet Hosea that I used to read come back to 
me. Don't you know them, Tess? — And she shall follow af- 
ter her lover, but she shall not overtake him; and she shall 
seek him, but shall not find him; then shall she say, I will go 
and return to my first husband; for then was it better with 
me than now!' ... Tess, my trap is waiting just under the hill, 



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483 



and — darling mine, not his! — you know the rest.' 

Her face had been rising to a dull crimson fire while he 
spoke; but she did not answer. 

'You have been the cause of my backsliding,' he contin- 
ued, stretching his arm towards her waist; 'you should be 
willing to share it, and leave that mule you call husband for 
ever.' 

One of her leather gloves, which she had taken off to eat 
her skimmer-cake, lay in her lap, and without the slightest 
warning she passionately swung the glove by the gauntlet 
directly in his face. It was heavy and thick as a warrior's, 
and it struck him flat on the mouth. Fancy might have re- 
garded the act as the recrudescence of a trick in which her 
armed progenitors were not unpractised. Alec fiercely start- 
ed up from his reclining position. A scarlet oozing appeared 
where her blow had alighted, and in a moment the blood be- 
gan dropping from his mouth upon the straw. But he soon 
controlled himself, calmly drew his handkerchief from his 
pocket, and mopped his bleeding lips. 

She too had sprung up, but she sank down again. 'Now, 
punish me!' she said, turning up her eyes to him with the 
hopeless defiance of the sparrow's gaze before its captor 
twists its neck. 'Whip me, crush me; you need not mind 
those people under the rick! I shall not cry out. Once vic- 
tim, always victim — that's the law!' 

'O no, no, Tess,' he said blandly. 'I can make full allow- 
ance for this. Yet you most unjustly forget one thing, that 
I would have married you if you had not put it out of my 
power to do so. Did I not ask you flatly to be my wife — hey? 



4 »4 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Answer me.' 

'You did.' 

And you cannot be. But remember one thing!' His voice 
hardened as his temper got the better of him with the rec- 
ollection of his sincerity in asking her and her present 
ingratitude, and he stepped across to her side and held her 
by the shoulders, so that she shook under his grasp. 'Re- 
member, my lady, I was your master once! I will be your 
master again. If you are any man's wife you are mine!' 

The threshers now began to stir below. 

'So much for our quarrel,' he said, letting her go. 'Now I 
shall leave you, and shall come again for your answer dur- 
ing the afternoon. You don't know me yet! But I know you.' 

She had not spoken again, remaining as if stunned. 
D'Urberville retreated over the sheaves, and descended the 
ladder, while the workers below rose and stretched their 
arms, and shook down the beer they had drunk. Then the 
threshing-machine started afresh; and amid the renewed 
rustle of the straw Tess resumed her position by the buzzing 
drum as one in a dream, untying sheaf after sheaf in end- 
less succession. 



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485 



XLVIII 



In the afternoon the farmer made it known that the rick 
was to be finished that night, since there was a moon by 
which they could see to work, and the man with the engine 
was engaged for another farm on the morrow. Hence the 
twanging and humming and rustling proceeded with even 
less intermission than usual. 

It was not till 'nammet'-time, about three o-clock, that 
Tess raised her eyes and gave a momentary glance round. 
She felt but little surprise at seeing that Alec d'Urberville 
had come back, and was standing under the hedge by the 
gate. He had seen her lift her eyes, and waved his hand ur- 
banely to her, while he blew her a kiss. It meant that their 
quarrel was over. Tess looked down again, and carefully ab- 
stained from gazing in that direction. 

Thus the afternoon dragged on. The wheat-rick shrank 
lower, and the straw-rick grew higher, and the corn-sacks 
were carted away. At six o'clock the wheat-rick was about 
shoulder-high from the ground. But the unthreshed sheaves 
remaining untouched seemed countless still, notwithstand- 
ing the enormous numbers that had been gulped down by 
the insatiable swallower, fed by the man and Tess, through 
whose two young hands the greater part of them had passed. 
And the immense stack of straw where in the morning there 
had been nothing, appeared as the faeces of the same buzz- 



486 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ing red glutton. From the west sky a wrathful shine — all that 
wild March could afford in the way of sunset — had burst 
forth after the cloudy day, flooding the tired and sticky faces 
of the threshers, and dyeing them with a coppery light, as 
also the flapping garments of the women, which clung to 
them like dull flames. 

A panting ache ran through the rick. The man who fed 
was weary, and Tess could see that the red nape of his neck 
was encrusted with dirt and husks. She still stood at her 
post, her flushed and perspiring face coated with the corn- 
dust, and her white bonnet embrowned by it. She was the 
only woman whose place was upon the machine so as to 
be shaken bodily by its spinning, and the decrease of the 
stack now separated her from Marian and Izz, and pre- 
vented their changing duties with her as they had done. The 
incessant quivering, in which every fibre of her frame par- 
ticipated, had thrown her into a stupefied reverie in which 
her arms worked on independently of her consciousness. 
She hardly knew where she was, and did not hear Izz Huett 
tell her from below that her hair was tumbling down. 

By degrees the freshest among them began to grow ca- 
daverous and saucer-eyed. Whenever Tess lifted her head 
she beheld always the great upgrown straw-stack, with the 
men in shirt-sleeves upon it, against the gray north sky; 
in front of it the long red elevator like a Jacob's ladder, on 
which a perpetual stream of threshed straw ascended, a yel- 
low river running uphill, and spouting out on the top of the 
rick. 

She knew that Alec d'Urberville was still on the scene, 



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4S7 



observing her from some point or other, though she could 
not say where. There was an excuse for his remaining, for 
when the threshed rick drew near its final sheaves a little 
ratting was always done, and men unconnected with the 
threshing sometimes dropped in for that performance — 
sporting characters of all descriptions, gents with terriers 
and facetious pipes, roughs with sticks and stones. 

But there was another hour's work before the layer of live 
rats at the base of the stack would be reached; and as the 
evening light in the direction of the Giant's Hill by Abbot's- 
Cernel dissolved away, the white-faced moon of the season 
arose from the horizon that lay towards Middleton Abbey 
and Shottsford on the other side. For the last hour or two 
Marian had felt uneasy about Tess, whom she could not get 
near enough to speak to, the other women having kept up 
their strength by drinking ale, and Tess having done with- 
out it through traditionary dread, owing to its results at her 
home in childhood. But Tess still kept going: if she could 
not fill her part she would have to leave; and this contin- 
gency, which she would have regarded with equanimity and 
even with relief a month or two earlier, had become a terror 
since d'Urberville had begun to hover round her. 

The sheaf-pitchers and feeders had now worked the rick 
so low that people on the ground could talk to them. To 
Tess's surprise Farmer Groby came up on the machine to 
her, and said that if she desired to join her friend he did 
not wish her to keep on any longer, and would send some- 
body else to take her place. The 'friend' was d'Urberville, 
she knew, and also that this concession had been granted in 



4 ss 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



obedience to the request of that friend, or enemy. She shook 
her head and toiled on. 

The time for the rat-catching arrived at last, and the hunt 
began. The creatures had crept downwards with the sub- 
sidence of the rick till they were all together at the bottom, 
and being now uncovered from their last refuge, they ran 
across the open ground in all directions, a loud shriek from 
the by-this-time half-tipsy Marian informing her compan- 
ions that one of the rats had invaded her person — a terror 
which the rest of the women had guarded against by vari- 
ous schemes of skirt-tucking and self-elevation. The rat was 
at last dislodged, and, amid the barking of dogs, masculine 
shouts, feminine screams, oaths, stampings, and confusion 
as of Pandemonium, Tess untied her last sheaf; the drum 
slowed, the whizzing ceased, and she stepped from the ma- 
chine to the ground. 

Her lover, who had only looked on at the rat-catching, 
was promptly at her side. 

'What — after all — my insulting slap, too!' said she in an 
underbreath. She was so utterly exhausted that she had not 
strength to speak louder. 

'I should indeed be foolish to feel offended at anything 
you say or do,' he answered, in the seductive voice of the 
Trantridge time. 'How the little limbs tremble! You are as 
weak as a bled calf, you know you are; and yet you need 
have done nothing since I arrived. How could you be so ob- 
stinate? However, I have told the farmer that he has no right 
to employ women at steam-threshing. It is not proper work 
for them; and on all the better class of farms it has been 



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489 



given up, as he knows very well. I will walk with you as far 
as your home.' 

'O yes,' she answered with a jaded gait. 'Walk wi' me 
if you will! I do bear in mind that you came to marry me 
before you knew o' my state. Perhaps — perhaps you are a 
little better and kinder than I have been thinking you were. 
Whatever is meant as kindness I am grateful for; whatever 
is meant in any other way I am angered at. I cannot sense 
your meaning sometimes.' 

'If I cannot legitimize our former relations at least I can 
assist you. And I will do it with much more regard for your 
feelings than I formerly showed. My religious mania, or 
whatever it was, is over. But I retain a little good nature; I 
hope I do. Now, Tess, by all that's tender and strong between 
man and woman, trust me! I have enough and more than 
enough to put you out of anxiety, both for yourself and your 
parents and sisters. I can make them all comfortable if you 
will only show confidence in me.' 

'Have you seen 'em lately?' she quickly inquired. 

'Yes. They didn't know where you were. It was only by 
chance that I found you here.' 

The cold moon looked aslant upon Tess's fagged face be- 
tween the twigs of the garden-hedge as she paused outside 
the cottage which was her temporary home, d'Urberville 
pausing beside her. 

'Don't mention my little brothers and sisters — don't 
make me break down quite!' she said. 'If you want to help 
them — God knows they need it — do it without telling me. 
But no, no!' she cried. 'I will take nothing from you, either 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



for them or for me!' 

He did not accompany her further, since, as she lived 
with the household, all was public indoors. No sooner had 
she herself entered, laved herself in a washing-tub, and 
shared supper with the family than she fell into thought, 
and withdrawing to the table under the wall, by the light of 
her own little lamp wrote in a passionate mood — 

MY OWN HUSBAND — 

Let me call you so — I must — even if it makes you angry to 
think of such an unworthy wife as I, 1 must cry to you in my 
trouble — I have no one else! I am so exposed to temptation, 
Angel. I fear to say who it is, and 1 do not like to write about 
it at all. But 1 cling to you in a way you cannot think! Can 
you not come to me now, at once, before anything terrible 
happens? 0, 1 know you cannot, because you are so far away! 
I think I must die if you do not come soon, or tell me to come 
to you. The punishment you have measured out to me is 
deserved — I do know that — well deserved — and you are right 
and just to be angry with me. But, Angel, please, please, not 
to be just — only a little kind to me, even if I do not deserve it, 
and come to me! If you would come, I could die in your arms! 
I would be well content to do that if so be you had forgiven 



Angel, I live entirely for you. I love you too much to blame you 
for going away, and Iknow it was necessary you should find 
a farm. Do not think I shall say a word of sting or bitterness. 



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Only come back to me. I am desolate without you, my darling, 
0, so desolate! I do not mind having to work: but if you will 
send me one little line, and say, T am coming soon,' I will bide 
on, Angel — 0, so cheerfully! 

It has been so much my religion ever since we were married to 
be faithful to you in every thought and look, that even when a 
man speaks a compliment to me before I am aware, it seems 
wronging you. Have you never felt one little bit of what you 
used to feel when we were at the dairy? If you have, how can 
you keep away from me? I am the same women, Angel, as you 
fell in love with; yes, the very same! — not the one you disliked 
but never saw. What was the past to me as soon as I met you? 
It was a dead thing altogether. I became another woman, 
filled full of new life from you. How could I be the early one? 
Why do you not see this? Dear, if you would only be a little 
more conceited, and believe in yourself so far as to see that 
you were strong enough to work this change in me, you would 
perhaps be in a mind to come to me, your poor wife. 

How silly I was in my happiness when I thought I could trust 
you always to love me! I ought to have known that such as 
that was not for poor me. But I am sick at heart, not only for 
old times, but for the present. Think — think how it do hurt my 
heart not to see you ever — ever! Ah, if I could only make your 
dear heart ache one little minute of each day as mine does 
every day and all day long, it might lead you to show pity to 
your poor lonely one. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



People still say that I am rather pretty, Angel (handsome is 
the word they use, since I wish to be truthful). Perhaps I am 
what they say. But I do not value my good looks; I only like 
to have them because they belong to you, my dear, and that 
there may be at least one thing about me worth your having. 
So much have I felt this, that when I met with annoyance on 
account of the same, I tied up my face in a bandage as long as 
people would believe in it. Angel, I tell you all this not from 
vanity — you will certainly know I do not — but only that you 
may come to me! 

If you really cannot come to me, will you let me come to you? 
I am, as I say, worried, pressed to do what I will not do. It 
cannot be that I shall yield one inch, yet I am in terror as 
to what an accident might lead to, and I so defenceless on 
account of my first error. I cannot say more about this — it 
makes me too miserable. But if I break down by falling into 
some fearful snare, my last state will be worse than my first. 

God, I cannot think of it! Let me come at once, or at once 
come to me! 

1 would be content, ay, glad, to live with you as your servant, 
if I may not as your wife; so that I could only be near you, and 
get glimpses of you, and think of you as mine. 

The daylight has nothing to show me, since you are not here, 
and I don't like to see the rooks and starlings in the field, 
because I grieve and grieve to miss you who used to see them 
with me. I long for only one thing in heaven or earth or under 



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the earth, to meet you, my own dear! Come to me — come to 
me, and save me from what threatens me! — 

Your faithful heartbroken 

TESS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



XLIX 



The appeal duly found its way to the breakfast-table of 
the quiet Vicarage to the westward, in that valley where the 
air is so soft and the soil so rich that the effort of growth re- 
quires but superficial aid by comparison with the tillage at 
Flintcomb-Ash, and where to Tess the human world seemed 
so different (though it was much the same). It was purely for 
security that she had been requested by Angel to send her 
communications through his father, whom he kept pretty 
well informed of his changing addresses in the country he 
had gone to exploit for himself with a heavy heart. 

'Now,' said old Mr Clare to his wife, when he had read 
the envelope, 'if Angel proposes leaving Rio for a visit home 
at the end of next month, as he told us that he hoped to do, 
I think this may hasten his plans; for I believe it to be from 
his wife.' He breathed deeply at the thought of her; and the 
letter was redirected to be promptly sent on to Angel. 

'Dear fellow, I hope he will get home safely,' murmured 
Mrs Clare. 'To my dying day I shall feel that he has been 
ill-used. You should have sent him to Cambridge in spite 
of his want of faith and given him the same chance as the 
other boys had. He would have grown out of it under proper 
influence, and perhaps would have taken Orders after all. 
Church or no Church, it would have been fairer to him.' 

This was the only wail with which Mrs Clare ever dis- 



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turbed her husband's peace in respect to their sons. And 
she did not vent this often; for she was as considerate as she 
was devout, and knew that his mind too was troubled by 
doubts as to his justice in this matter. Only too often had 
she heard him lying awake at night, stifling sighs for An- 
gel with prayers. But the uncompromising Evangelical did 
not even now hold that he would have been justified in giv- 
ing his son, an unbeliever, the same academic advantages 
that he had given to the two others, when it was possible, if 
not probable, that those very advantages might have been 
used to decry the doctrines which he had made it his life's 
mission and desire to propagate, and the mission of his or- 
dained sons likewise. To put with one hand a pedestal under 
the feet of the two faithful ones, and with the other to ex- 
alt the unfaithful by the same artificial means, he deemed 
to be alike inconsistent with his convictions, his position, 
and his hopes. Nevertheless, he loved his misnamed Angel, 
and in secret mourned over this treatment of him as Abra- 
ham might have mourned over the doomed Isaac while they 
went up the hill together. His silent self-generated regrets 
were far bitterer than the reproaches which his wife ren- 
dered audible. 

They blamed themselves for this unlucky marriage. If 
Angel had never been destined for a farmer he would never 
have been thrown with agricultural girls. They did not dis- 
tinctly know what had separated him and his wife, nor the 
date on which the separation had taken place. At first they 
had supposed it must be something of the nature of a seri- 
ous aversion. But in his later letters he occasionally alluded 



49 6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



to the intention of coming home to fetch her; from which 
expressions they hoped the division might not owe its ori- 
gin to anything so hopelessly permanent as that. He had 
told them that she was with her relatives, and in their doubts 
they had decided not to intrude into a situation which they 
knew no way of bettering. 

The eyes for which Tess's letter was intended were gaz- 
ing at this time on a limitless expanse of country from the 
back of a mule which was bearing him from the interior 
of the South-American Continent towards the coast. His 
experiences of this strange land had been sad. The severe 
illness from which he had suffered shortly after his arrival 
had never wholly left him, and he had by degrees almost 
decided to relinquish his hope of farming here, though, as 
long as the bare possibility existed of his remaining, he kept 
this change of view a secret from his parents. 

The crowds of agricultural labourers who had come out 
to the country in his wake, dazzled by representations of 
easy independence, had suffered, died, and wasted away. He 
would see mothers from English farms trudging along with 
their infants in their arms, when the child would be strick- 
en with fever and would die; the mother would pause to dig 
a hole in the loose earth with her bare hands, would bury 
the babe therein with the same natural grave-tools, shed 
one tear, and again trudge on. 

Angel's original intention had not been emigration to 
Brazil but a northern or eastern farm in his own country. 
He had come to this place in a fit of desperation, the Bra- 
zil movement among the English agriculturists having by 



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chance coincided with his desire to escape from his past ex- 
istence. 

During this time of absence he had mentally aged a doz- 
en years. What arrested him now as of value in life was less 
its beauty than its pathos. Having long discredited the old 
systems of mysticism, he now began to discredit the old 
appraisements of morality. He thought they wanted read- 
justing. Who was the moral man? Still more pertinently, 
who was the moral woman? The beauty or ugliness of a 
character lay not only in its achievements, but in its aims 
and impulses; its true history lay, not among things done, 
but among things willed. 

How, then, about Tess? 

Viewing her in these lights, a regret for his hasty judge- 
ment began to oppress him. Did he reject her eternally, or 
did he not? He could no longer say that he would always re- 
ject her, and not to say that was in spirit to accept her now. 

This growing fondness for her memory coincided in 
point of time with her residence at Flintcomb-Ash, but it 
was before she had felt herself at liberty to trouble him with 
a word about her circumstances or her feelings. He was 
greatly perplexed; and in his perplexity as to her motives 
in withholding intelligence, he did not inquire. Thus her 
silence of docility was misinterpreted. How much it real- 
ly said if he had understood! — that she adhered with literal 
exactness to orders which he had given and forgotten; that 
despite her natural fearlessness she asserted no rights, ad- 
mitted his judgement to be in every respect the true one, 
and bent her head dumbly thereto. 



498 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



In the before-mentioned journey by mules through the 
interior of the country, another man rode beside him. An- 
gel's companion was also an Englishman, bent on the same 
errand, though he came from another part of the island. 
They were both in a state of mental depression, and they 
spoke of home affairs. Confidence begat confidence. With 
that curious tendency evinced by men, more especially 
when in distant lands, to entrust to strangers details of their 
lives which they would on no account mention to friends, 
Angel admitted to this man as they rode along the sorrow- 
ful facts of his marriage. 

The stranger had sojourned in many more lands and 
among many more peoples than Angel; to his cosmopolitan 
mind such deviations from the social norm, so immense 
to domesticity, were no more than are the irregularities of 
vale and mountain- chain to the whole terrestrial curve. 
He viewed the matter in quite a different light from Angel; 
thought that what Tess had been was of no importance be- 
side what she would be, and plainly told Clare that he was 
wrong in coming away from her. 

The next day they were drenched in a thunder-storm. 
Angel's companion was struck down with fever, and died 
by the week's end. Clare waited a few hours to bury him, 
and then went on his way. 

The cursory remarks of the large-minded stranger, of 
whom he knew absolutely nothing beyond a commonplace 
name, were sublimedby his death, and influenced Clare more 
than all the reasoned ethics of the philosophers. His own 
parochialism made him ashamed by its contrast. His incon- 



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sistencies rushed upon him in a flood. He had persistently 
elevated Hellenic Paganism at the expense of Christianity; 
yet in that civilization an illegal surrender was not certain 
disesteem. Surely then he might have regarded that abhor- 
rence of the un-intact state, which he had inherited with the 
creed of mysticism, as at least open to correction when the 
result was due to treachery. A remorse struck into him. The 
words of Izz Huett, never quite stilled in his memory, came 
back to him. He had asked Izz if she loved him, and she had 
replied in the affirmative. Did she love him more than Tess 
did? No, she had replied; Tess would lay down her life for 
him, and she herself could do no more. 

He thought of Tess as she had appeared on the day of the 
wedding. How her eyes had lingered upon him; how she had 
hung upon his words as if they were a god's! And during the 
terrible evening over the hearth, when her simple soul un- 
covered itself to his, how pitiful her face had looked by the 
rays of the fire, in her inability to realize that his love and 
protection could possibly be withdrawn. 

Thus from being her critic he grew to be her advocate. 
Cynical things he had uttered to himself about her; but no 
man can be always a cynic and live; and he withdrew them. 
The mistake of expressing them had arisen from his allow- 
ing himself to be influenced by general principles to the 
disregard of the particular instance. 

But the reasoning is somewhat musty; lovers and hus- 
bands have gone over the ground before to-day. Clare had 
been harsh towards her; there is no doubt of it. Men are too 
often harsh with women they love or have loved; women 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



with men. And yet these harshnesses are tenderness itself 
when compared with the universal harshness out of which 
they grow; the harshness of the position towards the tem- 
perament, of the means towards the aims, of to-day towards 
yesterday, of hereafter towards to-day. 

The historic interest of her family — that masterful line 
of d'Urbervilles — whom he had despised as a spent force, 
touched his sentiments now. Why had he not known the 
difference between the political value and the imaginative 
value of these things? In the latter aspect her d'Urberville 
descent was a fact of great dimensions; worthless to eco- 
nomics, it was a most useful ingredient to the dreamer, to 
the moralizer on declines and falls. It was a fact that would 
soon be forgotten — that bit of distinction in poor Tess's 
blood and name, and oblivion would fall upon her heredi- 
tary link with the marble monuments and leaded skeletons 
at Kingsbere. So does Time ruthlessly destroy his own ro- 
mances. In recalling her face again and again, he thought 
now that he could see therein a flash of the dignity which 
must have graced her grand-dames; and the vision sent 
that aura through his veins which he had formerly felt, and 
which left behind it a sense of sickness. 

Despite her not-inviolate past, what still abode in such a 
woman as Tess outvalued the freshness of her fellows. Was 
not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the 
vintage of Abiezer? 

So spoke love renascent, preparing the way for Tess's de- 
voted outpouring, which was then just being forwarded to 
him by his father; though owing to his distance inland it 



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was to be a long time in reaching him. 

Meanwhile the writer's expectation that Angel would 
come in response to the entreaty was alternately great and 
small. What lessened it was that the facts of her life which 
had led to the parting had not changed — could never change; 
and that, if her presence had not attenuated them, her ab- 
sence could not. Nevertheless she addressed her mind to the 
tender question of what she could do to please him best if 
he should arrive. Sighs were expended on the wish that she 
had taken more notice of the tunes he played on his harp, 
that she had inquired more curiously of him which were his 
favourite ballads among those the country-girls sang. She 
indirectly inquired of Amby Seedling, who had followed Izz 
from Talbothays, and by chance Amby remembered that, 
amongst the snatches of melody in which they had indulged 
at the dairyman's, to induce the cows to let down their milk, 
Clare had seemed to like 'Cupid's Gardens', 'I have parks, I 
have hounds', and 'The break o' the day"; and had seemed 
not to care for "The Tailor's Breeches' and 'Such a beauty I 
did grow', excellent ditties as they were. 

To perfect the ballads was now her whimsical desire. She 
practised them privately at odd moments, especially "The 
break o' the day": 

Arise, arise, arise! 

And pick your love a posy, 

All o' the sweetest flowers 

That in the garden grow. 

The turtle doves and sma' birds 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



In every bough a-building, 
So early in the May-time 
At the break o' the day! 

It would have melted the heart of a stone to hear her sing- 
ing these ditties whenever she worked apart from the rest of 
the girls in this cold dry time; the tears running down her 
cheeks all the while at the thought that perhaps he would 
not, after all, come to hear her, and the simple silly words 
of the songs resounding in painful mockery of the aching 
heart of the singer. 

Tess was so wrapt up in this fanciful dream that she 
seemed not to know how the season was advancing; that 
the days had lengthened, that Lady-Day was at hand, and 
would soon be followed by Old Lady-Day, the end of her 
term here. 

But before the quarter-day had quite come, something 
happened which made Tess think of far different matters. 
She was at her lodging as usual one evening, sitting in the 
downstairs room with the rest of the family, when some- 
body knocked at the door and inquired for Tess. Through 
the doorway she saw against the declining light a figure 
with the height of a woman and the breadth of a child, a 
tall, thin, girlish creature whom she did not recognize in the 
twilight till the girl said 'Tess!' 

'What — is it 'Liza-Lu?' asked Tess, in startled accents. 
Her sister, whom a little over a year ago she had left at home 
as a child, had sprung up by a sudden shoot to a form of 
this presentation, of which as yet Lu seemed herself scarce 



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able to understand the meaning. Her thin legs, visible be- 
low her once-long frock, now short by her growing, and her 
uncomfortable hands and arms revealed her youth and in- 
experience. 

'Yes, I have been traipsing about all day, Tess,' said Lu, 
with unemotional gravity, 'a-trying to find 'ee; and I'm very 
tired.' 

'What is the matter at home?' 

'Mother is took very bad, and the doctor says she's dying, 
and as father is not very well neither, and says 'tis wrong for 
a man of such a high family as his to slave and drave at com- 
mon labouring work, we don't know what to do.' 

Tess stood in reverie a long time before she thought of 
asking 'Liza-Lu to come in and sit down. When she had 
done so, and 'Liza-Lu was having some tea, she came to a 
decision. It was imperative that she should go home. Her 
agreement did not end till Old Lady-Day, the sixth of April, 
but as the interval thereto was not a long one she resolved to 
run the risk of starting at once. 

To go that night would be a gain of twelve-hours; but 
her sister was too tired to undertake such a distance till the 
morrow. Tess ran down to where Marian and Izz lived, in- 
formed them of what had happened, and begged them to 
make the best of her case to the farmer. Returning, she got 
Lu a supper, and after that, having tucked the younger into 
her own bed, packed up as many of her belongings as would 
go into a withy basket, and started, directing Lu to follow 
her next morning. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She plunged into the chilly equinoctial darkness as the 
clock struck ten, for her fifteen miles' walk under the steely 
stars. In lonely districts night is a protection rather than a 
danger to a noiseless pedestrian, and knowing this, Tess 
pursued the nearest course along by-lanes that she would 
almost have feared in the day-time; but marauders were 
wanting now, and spectral fears were driven out of her mind 
by thoughts of her mother. Thus she proceeded mile after 
mile, ascending and descending till she came to Bulbarrow, 
and about midnight looked from that height into the abyss 
of chaotic shade which was all that revealed itself of the vale 
on whose further side she was born. Having already tra- 
versed about five miles on the upland, she had now some ten 
or eleven in the lowland before her journey would be fin- 
ished. The winding road downwards became just visible to 
her under the wan starlight as she followed it, and soon she 
paced a soil so contrasting with that above it that the differ- 
ence was perceptible to the tread and to the smell. It was the 
heavy clay land of Blackmoor Vale, and a part of the Vale to 
which turnpike-roads had never penetrated. Superstitions 
linger longest on these heavy soils. Having once been for- 
est, at this shadowy time it seemed to assert something of 
its old character, the far and the near being blended, and ev- 
ery tree and tall hedge making the most of its presence. The 



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harts that had been hunted here, the witches that had been 
pricked and ducked, the green-spangled fairies that 'whick- 
ered' at you as you passed; — the place teemed with beliefs in 
them still, and they formed an impish multitude now. 

At Nuttlebury she passed the village inn, whose sign 
creaked in response to the greeting of her footsteps, which 
not a human soul heard but herself. Under the thatched 
roofs her mind's eye beheld relaxed tendons and flaccid 
muscles, spread out in the darkness beneath coverlets made 
of little purple patchwork squares, and undergoing a brac- 
ing process at the hands of sleep for renewed labour on the 
morrow, as soon as a hint of pink nebulosity appeared on 
Hambledon Hill. 

At three she turned the last corner of the maze of lanes 
she had threaded, and entered Marlott, passing the field in 
which as a club -girl she had first seen Angel Clare, when he 
had not danced with her; the sense of disappointment re- 
mained with her yet. In the direction of her mother's house 
she saw a light. It came from the bedroom window, and 
a branch waved in front of it and made it wink at her. As 
soon as she could discern the outline of the house — new- 
ly thatched with her money — it had all its old effect upon 
Tess's imagination. Part of her body and life it ever seemed 
to be; the slope of its dormers, the finish of its gables, the 
broken courses of brick which topped the chimney, all had 
something in common with her personal character. A stu- 
pefaction had come into these features, to her regard; it 
meant the illness of her mother. 

She opened the door so softly as to disturb nobody; the 



so6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



lower room was vacant, but the neighbour who was sitting 
up with her mother came to the top of the stairs, and whis- 
pered that Mrs Durbeyfield was no better, though she was 
sleeping just then. Tess prepared herself a breakfast, and 
then took her place as nurse in her mother's chamber. 

In the morning, when she contemplated the children, 
they had all a curiously elongated look; although she had 
been away little more than a year, their growth was as- 
tounding; and the necessity of applying herself heart and 
soul to their needs took her out of her own cares. 

Her father's ill-health was the same indefinite kind, and 
he sat in his chair as usual. But the day after her arrival he 
was unusually bright. He had a rational scheme for living, 
and Tess asked him what it was. 

'I'm thinking of sending round to all the old antiquee- 
rians in this part of England,' he said, 'asking them to 
subscribe to a fund to maintain me. I'm sure they'd see it as 
a romantical, artistical, and proper thing to do. They spend 
lots o' money in keeping up old ruins, and finding the bones 
o' things, and such like; and living remains must be more 
interesting to 'em still, if they only knowed of me. Would 
that somebody would go round and tell 'em what there is 
living among 'em, and they thinking nothing of him! If 
Pa'son Tringham, who discovered me, had lived, he'd ha' 
done it, I'm sure.' 

Tess postponed her arguments on this high project till she 
had grappled with pressing matters in hand, which seemed 
little improved by her remittances. When indoor necessities 
had been eased, she turned her attention to external things. 



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It was now the season for planting and sowing; many gar- 
dens and allotments of the villagers had already received 
their spring tillage; but the garden and the allotment of 
the Durbeyfields were behindhand. She found, to her dis- 
may, that this was owing to their having eaten all the seed 
potatoes, — that last lapse of the improvident. At the earliest 
moment she obtained what others she could procure, and in 
a few days her father was well enough to see to the garden, 
under Tess's persuasive efforts: while she herself undertook 
the allotment-plot which they rented in a field a couple of 
hundred yards out of the village. 

She liked doing it after the confinement of the sick 
chamber, where she was not now required by reason of her 
mother's improvement. Violent motion relieved thought. 
The plot of ground was in a high, dry, open enclosure, where 
there were forty or fifty such pieces, and where labour was 
at its briskest when the hired labour of the day had ended. 
Digging began usually at six o'clock and extended indefi- 
nitely into the dusk or moonlight. Just now heaps of dead 
weeds and refuse were burning on many of the plots, the 
dry weather favouring their combustion. 

One fine day Tess and 'Liza-Lu worked on here with 
their neighbours till the last rays of the sun smote flat upon 
the white pegs that divided the plots. As soon as twilight 
succeeded to sunset the flare of the couch-grass and cab- 
bage-stalk fires began to light up the allotments fitfully, 
their outlines appearing and disappearing under the dense 
smoke as wafted by the wind. When a fire glowed, banks 
of smoke, blown level along the ground, would themselves 



iOS 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



become illuminated to an opaque lustre, screening the 
workpeople from one another; and the meaning of the 'pil- 
lar of a cloud', which was a wall by day and a light by night, 
could be understood. 

As evening thickened, some of the gardening men and 
women gave over for the night, but the greater number re- 
mained to get their planting done, Tess being among them, 
though she sent her sister home. It was on one of the couch- 
burning plots that she laboured with her fork, its four 
shining prongs resounding against the stones and dry clods 
in little clicks. Sometimes she was completely involved in 
the smoke of her fire; then it would leave her figure free, ir- 
radiated by the brassy glare from the heap. She was oddly 
dressed to-night, and presented a somewhat staring aspect, 
her attire being a gown bleached by many washings, with a 
short black jacket over it, the effect of the whole being that 
of a wedding and funeral guest in one. The women further 
back wore white aprons, which, with their pale faces, were 
all that could be seen of them in the gloom, except when at 
moments they caught a flash from the flames. 

Westward, the wiry boughs of the bare thorn hedge 
which formed the boundary of the field rose against the 
pale opalescence of the lower sky. Above, Jupiter hung like 
a full-blown jonquil, so bright as almost to throw a shade. 
A few small nondescript stars were appearing elsewhere. In 
the distance a dog barked, and wheels occasionally rattled 
along the dry road. 

Still the prongs continued to click assiduously, for it 
was not late; and though the air was fresh and keen there 



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was a whisper of spring in it that cheered the workers on. 
Something in the place, the hours, the crackling fires, the 
fantastic mysteries of light and shade, made others as well as 
Tess enjoy being there. Nightfall, which in the frost of win- 
ter comes as a fiend and in the warmth of summer as a lover, 
came as a tranquillizer on this March day. 

Nobody looked at his or her companions. The eyes of all 
were on the soil as its turned surface was revealed by the 
fires. Hence as Tess stirred the clods and sang her foolish 
little songs with scarce now a hope that Clare would ever 
hear them, she did not for a long time notice the person 
who worked nearest to her — a man in a long smockfrock 
who, she found, was forking the same plot as herself, and 
whom she supposed her father had sent there to advance 
the work. She became more conscious of him when the di- 
rection of his digging brought him closer. Sometimes the 
smoke divided them; then it swerved, and the two were vis- 
ible to each other but divided from all the rest. 

Tess did not speak to her fellow-worker, nor did he speak 
to her. Nor did she think of him further than to recollect 
that he had not been there when it was broad daylight, and 
that she did not know him as any one of the Marlott la- 
bourers, which was no wonder, her absences having been so 
long and frequent of late years. By-and-by he dug so close to 
her that the fire-beams were reflected as distinctly from the 
steel prongs of his fork as from her own. On going up to the 
fire to throw a pitch of dead weeds upon it, she found that 
he did the same on the other side. The fire flared up, and she 
beheld the face of d'Urberville. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



The unexpectedness of his presence, the grotesqueness 
of his appearance in a gathered smockfrock, such as was 
now worn only by the most old-fashioned of the labourers, 
had a ghastly comicality that chilled her as to its bearing. 
D'Urberville emitted a low, long laugh. 

'If I were inclined to joke, I should say, How much this 
seems like Paradise!' he remarked whimsically, looking at 
her with an inclined head. 

'What do you say?' she weakly asked. 

'A jester might say this is just like Paradise. You are Eve, 
and I am the old Other One come to tempt you in the dis- 
guise of an inferior animal. I used to be quite up in that 
scene of Milton's when I was theological. Some of it goes — 

"Empress, the way is ready, and not long, 

Beyond a row of myrtles... 

... If thou accept 

My conduct, 1 can bring thee thither soon.' 

'Lead then,' said Eve. 

'And so on. My dear Tess, I am only putting this to you as 
a thing that you might have supposed or said quite untruly, 
because you think so badly of me.' 

'I never said you were Satan, or thought it. I don't think 
of you in that way at all. My thoughts of you are quite cold, 
except when you affront me. What, did you come digging 
here entirely because of me?' 

'Entirely To see you; nothing more. The smockfrock, 
which I saw hanging for sale as I came along, was an af- 



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terthought, that I mightn't be noticed. I come to protest 
against your working like this.' 

'But I like doing it — it is for my father.' 

'Your engagement at the other place is ended?' 

'Yes.' 

'Where are you going to next? To join your dear hus- 
band?' 

She could not bear the humiliating reminder. 

'O — I don't know!' she said bitterly. 'I have no husband!' 

'It is quite true — in the sense you mean. But you have a 
friend, and I have determined that you shall be comfortable 
in spite of yourself. When you get down to your house you 
will see what I have sent there for you.' 

'O, Alec, I wish you wouldn't give me anything at all! I 
cannot take it from you! I don't like — it is not right!' 

'It IS right!' he cried lightly. 'I am not going to see a wom- 
an whom I feel so tenderly for as I do for you in trouble 
without trying to help her.' 

'But I am very well off! I am only in trouble about — 
about — not about living at all!' 

She turned, and desperately resumed her digging, tears 
dripping upon the fork-handle and upon the clods. 

'About the children — your brothers and sisters,' he re- 
sumed. 'I've been thinking of them.' 

Tess's heart quivered — he was touching her in a weak 
place. He had divined her chief anxiety. Since returning 
home her soul had gone out to those children with an affec- 
tion that was passionate. 

'If your mother does not recover, somebody ought to do 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



something for them; since your father will not be able to do 
much, I suppose?' 

'He can with my assistance. He must!' 

And with mine.' 

'No, sir!' 

'How damned foolish this is!' burst out d'Urberville. 
'Why, he thinks we are the same family; and will be quite 
satisfied!' 

'He don't. I've undeceived him.' 

'The more fool you!' 

D'Urberville in anger retreated from her to the hedge, 
where he pulled off the long smockfrock which had dis- 
guised him; and rolling it up and pushing it into the 
couch-fire, went away. 

Tess could not get on with her digging after this; she felt 
restless; she wondered if he had gone back to her father's 
house; and taking the fork in her hand proceeded home- 
wards. 

Some twenty yards from the house she was met by one 
of her sisters. 

'O, Tessy — what do you think! 'Liza-Lu is a-crying, and 
there's a lot of folk in the house, and mother is a good deal 
better, but they think father is dead!' 

The child realized the grandeur of the news; but not as 
yet its sadness, and stood looking at Tess with round-eyed 
importance till, beholding the effect produced upon her, she 
said — 

'What, Tess, shan't we talk to father never no more?' 

'But father was only a little bit ill!' exclaimed Tess dis- 



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tractedly. 

'Liza-Lu came up. 

'He dropped down just now, and the doctor who was 
there for mother said there was no chance for him, because 
his heart was growed in.' 

Yes; the Durbeyfield couple had changed places; the 
dying one was out of danger, and the indisposed one was 
dead. The news meant even more than it sounded. Her fa- 
ther's life had a value apart from his personal achievements, 
or perhaps it would not have had much. It was the last of 
the three lives for whose duration the house and premises 
were held under a lease; and it had long been coveted by the 
tenant-farmer for his regular labourers, who were stinted 
in cottage accommodation. Moreover, 'liviers' were disap- 
proved of in villages almost as much as little freeholders, 
because of their independence of manner, and when a lease 
determined it was never renewed. 

Thus the Durbeyfields, once d'Urbervilles, saw descend- 
ing upon them the destiny which, no doubt, when they were 
among the Olympians of the county, they had caused to de- 
scend many a time, and severely enough, upon the heads of 
such landless ones as they themselves were now. So do flux 
and reflux — the rhythm of change — alternate and persist in 
everything under the sky. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



LI 



At length it was the eve of Old Lady-Day, and the agri- 
cultural world was in a fever of mobility such as only occurs 
at that particular date of the year. It is a day of fulfilment; 
agreements for outdoor service during the ensuing year, 
entered into at Candlemas, are to be now carried out. The 
labourers — or 'work-folk', as they used to call themselves 
immemorially till the other word was introduced from 
without — who wish to remain no longer in old places are 
removing to the new farms. 

These annual migrations from farm to farm were on the 
increase here. When Tess's mother was a child the majority 
of the field-folk about Marlott had remained all their lives 
on one farm, which had been the home also of their fathers 
and grandfathers; but latterly the desire for yearly removal 
had risen to a high pitch. With the younger families it was 
a pleasant excitement which might possibly be an advan- 
tage. The Egypt of one family was the Land of Promise to 
the family who saw it from a distance, till by residence there 
it became it turn their Egypt also; and so they changed and 
changed. 

However, all the mutations so increasingly discernible 
in village life did not originate entirely in the agricultural 
unrest. A depopulation was also going on. The village had 
formerly contained, side by side with the argicultural la- 



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bourers, an interesting and better-informed class, ranking 
distinctly above the former — the class to which Tess's father 
and mother had belonged — and including the carpenter, 
the smith, the shoemaker, the huckster, together with non- 
descript workers other than farm-labourers; a set of people 
who owed a certain stability of aim and conduct to the fact 
of their being lifeholders like Tess's father, or copyholders, 
or occasionally, small freeholders. But as the long holdings 
fell in, they were seldom again let to similar tenants, and 
were mostly pulled down, if not absolutely required by the 
farmer for his hands. Cottagers who were not directly em- 
ployed on the land were looked upon with disfavour, and 
the banishment of some starved the trade of others, who 
were thus obliged to follow. These families, who had formed 
the backbone of the village life in the past, who were the de- 
positaries of the village traditions, had to seek refuge in the 
large centres; the process, humorously designated by statis- 
ticians as 'the tendency of the rural population towards the 
large towns', being really the tendency of water to flow up- 
hill when forced by machinery. 

The cottage accommodation at Marlott having been in 
this manner considerably curtailed by demolitions, every 
house which remained standing was required by the agri- 
culturist for his work-people. Ever since the occurrence of 
the event which had cast such a shadow over Tess's life, the 
Durbeyfield family (whose descent was not credited) had 
been tacitly looked on as one which would have to go when 
their lease ended, if only in the interests of morality. It was, 
indeed, quite true that the household had not been shin- 



516 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



ing examples either of temperance, soberness, or chastity. 
The father, and even the mother, had got drunk at times, 
the younger children seldom had gone to church, and the 
eldest daughter had made queer unions. By some means 
the village had to be kept pure. So on this, the first Lady- 
Day on which the Durbeyfields were expellable, the house, 
being roomy, was required for a carter with a large family; 
and Widow Joan, her daughters Tess and 'Liza-Lu, the boy 
Abraham, and the younger children had to go elsewhere. 

On the evening preceding their removal it was getting 
dark betimes by reason of a drizzling rain which blurred 
the sky. As it was the last night they would spend in the 
village which had been their home and birthplace, Mrs 
Durbeyfield, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham had gone out to bid 
some friends goodbye, and Tess was keeping house till they 
should return. 

She was kneeling in the window-bench, her face close to 
the casement, where an outer pane of rain-water was slid- 
ing down the inner pane of glass. Her eyes rested on the 
web of a spider, probably starved long ago, which had been 
mistakenly placed in a corner where no flies ever came, and 
shivered in the slight draught through the casement. Tess 
was reflecting on the position of the household, in which 
she perceived her own evil influence. Had she not come 
home, her mother and the children might probably have 
been allowed to stay on as weekly tenants. But she had been 
observed almost immediately on her return by some people 
of scrupulous character and great influence: they had seen 
her idling in the churchyard, restoring as well as she could 



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with a little trowel a baby's obliterated grave. By this means 
they had found that she was living here again; her mother 
was scolded for 'harbouring' her; sharp retorts had ensued 
from Joan, who had independently offered to leave at once; 
she had been taken at her word; and here was the result. 

'I ought never to have come home,' said Tess to herself, 
bitterly. 

She was so intent upon these thoughts that she hardly at 
first took note of a man in a white mackintosh whom she 
saw riding down the street. Possibly it was owing to her face 
being near to the pane that he saw her so quickly, and di- 
rected his horse so close to the cottage-front that his hoofs 
were almost upon the narrow border for plants growing 
under the wall. It was not till he touched the window with 
his riding-crop that she observed him. The rain had nearly 
ceased, and she opened the casement in obedience to his 
gesture. 

'Didn't you see me?' asked d'Urberville. 

'I was not attending,' she said. 'I heard you, I believe, 
though I fancied it was a carriage and horses. I was in a sort 
of dream.' 

'Ah! you heard the d'Urberville Coach, perhaps. You 
know the legend, I suppose?' 

'No. My — somebody was going to tell it me once, but 
didn't.' 

'If you are a genuine d'Urberville I ought not to tell you 
either, I suppose. As for me, I'm a sham one, so it doesn't 
matter. It is rather dismal. It is that this sound of a non-ex- 
istent coach can only be heard by one of d'Urberville blood, 



518 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



and it is held to be of ill-omen to the one who hears it. It has 
to do with a murder, committed by one of the family, cen- 
turies ago.' 

'Now you have begun it, finish it.' 

'Very well. One of the family is said to have abducted 
some beautiful woman, who tried to escape from the coach 
in which he was carrying her off, and in the struggle he 
killed her — or she killed him — I forget which. Such is one 
version of the tale... I see that your tubs and buckets are 
packed. Going away, aren't you?' 

'Yes, to-morrow — Old Lady Day.' 

'I heard you were, but could hardly believe it; it seems so 
sudden. Why is it?' 

'Father's was the last life on the property, and when that 
dropped we had no further right to stay. Though we might, 
perhaps, have stayed as weekly tenants — if it had not been 
for me.' 

'What about you?' 

'I am not a — proper woman.' 

D'Urberville 's face flushed. 

'What a blasted shame! Miserable snobs! May their dirty 
souls be burnt to cinders!' he exclaimed in tones of ironic 
resentment. 'That's why you are going, is it? Turned out?' 

'We are not turned out exactly; but as they said we should 
have to go soon, it was best to go now everybody was mov- 
ing, because there are better chances.' 

'Where are you going to?' 

'Kingsbere. We have taken rooms there. Mother is so 
foolish about father's people that she will go there.' 



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'But your mother's family are not fit for lodgings, and in 
a little hole of a town like that. Now why not come to my 
garden-house at Trantridge? There are hardly any poultry 
now, since my mother's death; but there's the house, as you 
know it, and the garden. It can be whitewashed in a day, and 
your mother can live there quite comfortably; and I will put 
the children to a good school. Really I ought to do some- 
thing for you!' 

'But we have already taken the rooms at Kingsbere!' she 
declared. 'And we can wait there — ' 

'Wait — what for? For that nice husband, no doubt. Now 
look here, Tess, I know what men are, and, bearing in mind 
the grounds of your separation, I am quite positive he will 
never make it up with you. Now, though I have been your 
enemy, I am your friend, even if you won't believe it. Come 
to this cottage of mine. We'll get up a regular colony of 
fowls, and your mother can attend to them excellently; and 
the children can go to school.' 

Tess breathed more and more quickly, and at length she 
said — 

'How do I know that you would do all this? Your views 
may change — and then — we should be — my mother would 
be — homeless again.' 

'O no — no. I would guarantee you against such as that in 
writing, if necessary. Think it over.' 

Tess shook her head. But d'Urberville persisted; she had 
seldom seen him so determined; he would not take a nega- 
tive. 

'Please just tell your mother,' he said, in emphatic tones. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'It is her business to judge — not yours. I shall get the house 
swept out and whitened to-morrow morning, and fires lit; 
and it will be dry by the evening, so that you can come 
straight there. Now mind, I shall expect you.' 

Tess again shook her head, her throat swelling with com- 
plicated emotion. She could not look up at d'Urberville. 

'I owe you something for the past, you know,' he resumed. 
'And you cured me, too, of that craze; so I am glad — ' 

'I would rather you had kept the craze, so that you had 
kept the practice which went with it!' 

'I am glad of this opportunity of repaying you a little. 
To-morrow I shall expect to hear your mother's goods un- 
loading... Give me your hand on it now — dear, beautiful 
Tess!' 

With the last sentence he had dropped his voice to a 
murmur, and put his hand in at the half- open casement. 
With stormy eyes she pulled the stay-bar quickly, and, in 
doing so, caught his arm between the casement and the 
stone mullion. 

'Damnation — you are very cruel!' he said, snatching out 
his arm. 'No, no! — I know you didn't do it on purpose. Well 
I shall expect you, or your mother and children at least.' 

'I shall not come — I have plenty of money!' she cried. 

'Where?' 

At my father-in-law's, if I ask for it.' 

'IF you ask for it. But you won't, Tess; I know you; you'll 
never ask for it — you'll starve first!' 

With these words he rode off. Just at the corner of the 
street he met the man with the paint-pot, who asked him if 



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he had deserted the brethren. 

'You go to the devil!' said d'Urberville. 

Tess remained where she was a long while, till a sudden 
rebellious sense of injustice caused the region of her eyes to 
swell with the rush of hot tears thither. Her husband, An- 
gel Clare himself, had, like others, dealt out hard measure 
to her; surely he had! She had never before admitted such 
a thought; but he had surely! Never in her life — she could 
swear it from the bottom of her soul — had she ever intended 
to do wrong; yet these hard judgements had come. Whatever 
her sins, they were not sins of intention, but of inadvertence, 
and why should she have been punished so persistently? 

She passionately seized the first piece of paper that came 
to hand, and scribbled the following lines: 

why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not 
deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, 
never forgive you! You know that I did not intend to wrong 
you — why have you so wronged me? You are cruel, cruel 
indeed! 1 will try to forget you. It is all injustice 1 have received 
at your hands! 



T. 



She watched till the postman passed by, ran out to him 
with her epistle, and then again took her listless place inside 
the window-panes. 

It was just as well to write like that as to write tender- 
ly. How could he give way to entreaty? The facts had not 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



changed: there was no new event to alter his opinion. 

It grew darker, the fire-light shining over the room. The 
two biggest of the younger children had gone out with their 
mother; the four smallest, their ages ranging from three- 
and-a-half years to eleven, all in black frocks, were gathered 
round the hearth babbling their own little subjects. Tess at 
length joined them, without lighting a candle. 

'This is the last night that we shall sleep here, dears, in 
the house where we were born,' she said quickly. 'We ought 
to think of it, oughtn't we?' 

They all became silent; with the impressibility of their 
age they were ready to burst into tears at the picture of fi- 
nality she had conjured up, though all the day hitherto they 
had been rejoicing in the idea of a new place. Tess changed 
the subject. 

'Sing to me, dears,' she said. 

'What shall we sing?' 

'Anything you know; I don't mind.' 

There was a momentary pause; it was broken, first, in one 
little tentative note; then a second voice strengthened it, and 
a third and a fourth chimed in unison, with words they had 
learnt at the Sunday-school — 

Here we suffer grief and pain, 
Here we meet to part again; 
In Heaven we part no more. 

The four sang on with the phlegmatic passivity of per- 
sons who had long ago settled the question, and there 



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being no mistake about it, felt that further thought was not 
required. With features strained hard to enunciate the syl- 
lables they continued to regard the centre of the flickering 
fire, the notes of the youngest straying over into the pauses 
of the rest. 

Tess turned from them, and went to the window again. 
Darkness had now fallen without, but she put her face to the 
pane as though to peer into the gloom. It was really to hide 
her tears. If she could only believe what the children were 
singing; if she were only sure, how different all would now 
be; how confidently she would leave them to Providence 
and their future kingdom! But, in default of that, it behoved 
her to do something; to be their Providence; for to Tess, as 
to not a few millions of others, there was ghastly satire in 
the poet's lines — 

Not in utter nakedness 

But trailing clouds of glory do we come. 

To her and her like, birth itself was an ordeal of degrad- 
ing personal compulsion, whose gratuitousness nothing in 
the result seemed to justify, and at best could only palliate. 

In the shades of the wet road she soon discerned her 
mother with tall 'Liza-Lu and Abraham. Mrs Durbeyfield's 
pattens clicked up to the door, and Tess opened it. 

'I see the tracks of a horse outside the window,' said Joan. 
'Hev somebody called?' 

'No,' said Tess. 

The children by the fire looked gravely at her, and one 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



murmured — 

'Why, Tess, the gentleman a-horseback!' 

'He didn't call,' said Tess. 'He spoke to me in passing.' 

'Who was the gentleman?' asked the mother. 'Your hus- 
band?' 

'No. He'll never, never come,' answered Tess in stony 
hopelessness. 

'Then who was it?' 

'Oh, you needn't ask. You've seen him before, and so 
have I.' 

'Ah! What did he say?' said Joan curiously. 

'I will tell you when we are settled in our lodging at 
Kingsbere to-morrow — every word.' 

It was not her husband, she had said. Yet a consciousness 
that in a physical sense this man alone was her husband 
seemed to weigh on her more and more. 



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LII 



During the small hours of the next morning, while it 
was still dark, dwellers near the highways were conscious 
of a disturbance of their night's rest by rumbling noises, 
intermittently continuing till daylight — noises as certain 
to recur in this particular first week of the month as the 
voice of the cuckoo in the third week of the same. They were 
the preliminaries of the general removal, the passing of the 
empty waggons and teams to fetch the goods of the migrat- 
ing families; for it was always by the vehicle of the farmer 
who required his services that the hired man was conveyed 
to his destination. That this might be accomplished within 
the day was the explanation of the reverberation occurring 
so soon after midnight, the aim of the carters being to reach 
the door of the outgoing households by six o'clock, when the 
loading of their movables at once began. 

But to Tess and her mother's household no such anxious 
farmer sent his team. They were only women; they were 
not regular labourers; they were not particularly required 
anywhere; hence they had to hire a waggon at their own ex- 
pense, and got nothing sent gratuitously. 

It was a relief to Tess, when she looked out of the window 
that morning, to find that though the weather was windy 
and louring, it did not rain, and that the waggon had come. 
A wet Lady-Day was a spectre which removing families 



5-6 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



never forgot; damp furniture, damp bedding, damp cloth- 
ing accompanied it, and left a train of ills. 

Her mother, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham were also awake, 
but the younger children were let sleep on. The four break- 
fasted by the thin light, and the 'house-ridding' was taken 
in hand. 

It proceeded with some cheerfulness, a friendly neigh- 
bour or two assisting. When the large articles of furniture 
had been packed in position, a circular nest was made of the 
beds and bedding, in which Joan Durbeyfield and the young 
children were to sit through the journey. After loading there 
was a long delay before the horses were brought, these hav- 
ing been unharnessed during the ridding; but at length, 
about two o'clock, the whole was under way, the cooking- 
pot swinging from the axle of the waggon, Mrs Durbeyfield 
and family at the top, the matron having in her lap, to pre- 
vent injury to its works, the head of the clock, which, at any 
exceptional lurch of the waggon, struck one, or one-and- 
a-half, in hurt tones. Tess and the next eldest girl walked 
alongside till they were out of the village. 

They had called on a few neighbours that morning and 
the previous evening, and some came to see them off, all 
wishing them well, though, in their secret hearts, hardly ex- 
pecting welfare possible to such a family, harmless as the 
Durbeyfields were to all except themselves. Soon the equi- 
page began to ascend to higher ground, and the wind grew 
keener with the change of level and soil. 

The day being the sixth of April, the Durbeyfield waggon 
met many other waggons with families on the summit of 



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the load, which was built on a wellnigh unvarying principle, 
as peculiar, probably, to the rural labourer as the hexagon to 
the bee. The groundwork of the arrangement was the family 
dresser, which, with its shining handles, and finger-marks, 
and domestic evidences thick upon it, stood importantly in 
front, over the tails of the shaft-horses, in its erect and natu- 
ral position, like some Ark of the Covenant that they were 
bound to carry reverently. 

Some of the households were lively, some mournful; 
some were stopping at the doors of wayside inns; where, in 
due time, the Durbeyfield menagerie also drew up to bait 
horses and refresh the travellers. 

During the halt Tess's eyes fell upon a three-pint blue 
mug, which was ascending and descending through the 
air to and from the feminine section of a household, sit- 
ting on the summit of a load that had also drawn up at a 
little distance from the same inn. She followed one of the 
mug's journeys upward, and perceived it to be clasped by 
hands whose owner she well knew. Tess went towards the 
waggon. 

'Marian and Izz!' she cried to the girls, for it was they, sit- 
ting with the moving family at whose house they had lodged. 
'Are you house-ridding to-day, like everybody else?' 

They were, they said. It had been too rough a life for them 
at Flintcomb-Ash, and they had come away, almost without 
notice, leaving Groby to prosecute them if he chose. They 
told Tess their destination, and Tess told them hers. 

Marian leant over the load, and lowered her voice. 'Do 
you know that the gentleman who follows 'ee — you'll guess 



i2S 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



who I mean — came to ask for 'ee at Flintcomb after you had 
gone? We didn't tell'n where you was, knowing you wouldn't 
wish to see him.' 

Ah — but I did see him!' Tess murmured. 'He found me.' 

And do he know where you be going?' 

'I think so.' 

'Husband come back?' 

'No.' 

She bade her acquaintance goodbye — for the respec- 
tive carters had now come out from the inn — and the two 
waggons resumed their journey in opposite directions; the 
vehicle whereon sat Marian, Izz, and the ploughman's fam- 
ily with whom they had thrown in their lot, being brightly 
painted, and drawn by three powerful horses with shin- 
ing brass ornaments on their harness; while the waggon on 
which Mrs Durbeyfield and her family rode was a creaking 
erection that would scarcely bear the weight of the super- 
incumbent load; one which had known no paint since it 
was made, and drawn by two horses only. The contrast well 
marked the difference between being fetched by a thriving 
farmer and conveying oneself whither no hirer waited one's 
coming. 

The distance was great — too great for a day's jour- 
ney — and it was with the utmost difficulty that the horses 
performed it. Though they had started so early, it was quite 
late in the afternoon when they turned the flank of an em- 
inence which formed part of the upland called Greenhill. 
While the horses stood to stale and breathe themselves Tess 
looked around. Under the hill, and just ahead of them, was 



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the half-dead townlet of their pilgrimage, Kingsbere, where 
lay those ancestors of whom her father had spoken and sung 
to painfulness: Kingsbere, the spot of all spots in the world 
which could be considered the d'Urbervilles' home, since 
they had resided there for full five hundred years. 

A man could be seen advancing from the outskirts 
towards them, and when he beheld the nature of their wag- 
gon-load he quickened his steps. 

'You be the woman they call Mrs Durbeyfield, I reckon?' 
he said to Tess's mother, who had descended to walk the re- 
mainder of the way. 

She nodded. 'Though widow of the late Sir John 
d'Urberville, poor nobleman, if I cared for my rights; and 
returning to the domain of his forefathers.' 

'Oh? Well, I know nothing about that; but if you be Mrs 
Durbeyfield, I am sent to tell 'ee that the rooms you wanted 
be let. We didn't know that you was coming till we got your 
letter this morning — when 'twas too late. But no doubt you 
can get other lodgings somewhere.' 

The man had noticed the face of Tess, which had become 
ash-pale at his intelligence. Her mother looked hopelessly at 
fault. What shall we do now, Tess?' she said bitterly. 'Here's 
a welcome to your ancestors' lands! However, let's try fur- 
ther.' 

They moved on into the town, and tried with all their 
might, Tess remaining with the waggon to take care of the 
children whilst her mother and 'Liza-Lu made inquiries. At 
the last return of Joan to the vehicle, an hour later, when 
her search for accommodation had still been fruitless, the 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



driver of the waggon said the goods must be unloaded, as 
the horses were half-dead, and he was bound to return part 
of the way at least that night. 

'Very well — unload it here,' said Joan recklessly. 'I'll get 
shelter somewhere.' 

The waggon had drawn up under the churchyard wall, 
in a spot screened from view, and the driver, nothing loth, 
soon hauled down the poor heap of household goods. This 
done, she paid him, reducing herself to almost her last shil- 
ling thereby, and he moved off and left them, only too glad 
to get out of further dealings with such a family. It was a dry 
night, and he guessed that they would come to no harm. 

Tess gazed desperately at the pile of furniture. The cold 
sunlight of this spring evening peered invidiously upon the 
crocks and kettles, upon the bunches of dried herbs shiv- 
ering in the breeze, upon the brass handles of the dresser, 
upon the wicker-cradle they had all been rocked in, and 
upon the well-rubbed clock-case, all of which gave out the 
reproachful gleam of indoor articles abandoned to the vi- 
cissitudes of a roofless exposure for which they were never 
made. Round about were deparked hills and slopes — now 
cut up into little paddocks — and the green foundations that 
showed where the d'Urberville mansion once had stood; 
also an outlying stretch of Egdon Heath that had always be- 
longed to the estate. Hard by, the aisle of the church called 
the d'Urberville Aisle looked on imperturbably. 

'Isn't your family vault your own freehold?' said Tess's 
mother, as she returned from a reconnoitre of the church 
and graveyard. Why, of course 'tis, and that's where we will 



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camp, girls, till the place of your ancestors finds us a roof! 
Now, Tess and 'Liza and Abraham, you help me. We'll make 
a nest for these children, and then we'll have another look 
round.' 

Tess listlessly lent a hand, and in a quarter of an hour 
the old four-post bedstead was dissociated from the heap of 
goods, and erected under the south wall of the church, the 
part of the building known as the d'Urberville Aisle, beneath 
which the huge vaults lay. Over the tester of the bedstead 
was a beautiful traceried window, of many lights, its date 
being the fifteenth century. It was called the d'Urberville 
Window, and in the upper part could be discerned heraldic 
emblems like those on Durbeyfield's old seal and spoon. 

Joan drew the curtains round the bed so as to make an 
excellent tent of it, and put the smaller children inside. 'If 
it comes to the worst we can sleep there too, for one night,' 
she said. 'But let us try further on, and get something for the 
dears to eat! O, Tess, what's the use of your playing at mar- 
rying gentlemen, if it leaves us like this!' 

Accompanied by 'Liza-Lu and the boy, she again as- 
cended the little lane which secluded the church from the 
townlet. As soon as they got into the street they beheld a 
man on horseback gazing up and down. Ah — I'm looking 
for you!' he said, riding up to them. 'This is indeed a family 
gathering on the historic spot!' 

It was Alec d'Urberville. 'Where is Tess?' he asked. 

Personally Joan had no liking for Alec. She cursorily sig- 
nified the direction of the church, and went on, d'Urberville 
saying that he would see them again, in case they should be 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



still unsuccessful in their search for shelter, of which he had 
just heard. When they had gone, d'Urberville rode to the 
inn, and shortly after came out on foot. 

In the interim Tess, left with the children inside the bed- 
stead, remained talking with them awhile, till, seeing that 
no more could be done to make them comfortable just then, 
she walked about the churchyard, now beginning to be em- 
browned by the shades of nightfall. The door of the church 
was unfastened, and she entered it for the first time in her 
life. 

Within the window under which the bedstead stood were 
the tombs of the family, covering in their dates several cen- 
turies. They were canopied, altar-shaped, and plain; their 
carvings being defaced and broken; their brasses torn from 
the matrices, the rivet-holes remaining like martin-holes in 
a sandcliff. Of all the reminders that she had ever received 
that her people were socially extinct, there was none so forc- 
ible as this spoliation. 

She drew near to a dark stone on which was inscribed: 

OSTIUM SEPULCHRI ANTIQUAE FAMILIAE 
D'URBERVILLE 

Tess did not read Church-Latin like a Cardinal, but she 
knew that this was the door of her ancestral sepulchre, and 
that the tall knights of whom her father had chanted in his 
cups lay inside. 

She musingly turned to withdraw, passing near an al- 
tar-tomb, the oldest of them all, on which was a recumbent 



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figure. In the dusk she had not noticed it before, and would 
hardly have noticed it now but for an odd fancy that the ef- 
figy moved. As soon as she drew close to it she discovered 
all in a moment that the figure was a living person; and the 
shock to her sense of not having been alone was so violent 
that she was quite overcome, and sank down nigh to faint- 
ing, not, however, till she had recognized Alec d'Urberville 
in the form. 

He leapt off the slab and supported her. 

'I saw you come in,' he said smiling, 'and got up there not 
to interrupt your meditations. A family gathering, is it not, 
with these old fellows under us here? Listen.' 

He stamped with his heel heavily on the floor; whereup- 
on there arose a hollow echo from below. 

'That shook them a bit, I'll warrant!' he continued. And 
you thought I was the mere stone reproduction of one of 
them. But no. The old order changeth. The little finger of 
the sham d'Urberville can do more for you than the whole 
dynasty of the real underneath... Now command me. What 
shall I do?' 

'Go away!' she murmured. 

T will — I'll look for your mother,' said he blandly. But in 
passing her he whispered: 'Mind this; you'll be civil yet!' 

When he was gone she bent down upon the entrance to 
the vaults, and said — 

Why am I on the wrong side of this door!' 

In the meantime Marian and Izz Huett had journeyed 
onward with the chattels of the ploughman in the direction 
of their land of Canaan — the Egypt of some other family 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



who had left it only that morning. But the girls did not for 
a long time think of where they were going. Their talk was 
of Angel Clare and Tess, and Tess's persistent lover, whose 
connection with her previous history they had partly heard 
and partly guessed ere this. 

"Tisn't as though she had never known him afore,' said 
Marian. 'His having won her once makes all the difference 
in the world. 'Twould be a thousand pities if he were to tole 
her away again. Mr Clare can never be anything to us, Izz; 
and why should we grudge him to her, and not try to mend 
this quarrel? If he could on'y know what straits she's put to, 
and what's hovering round, he might come to take care of 
his own.' 

'Could we let him know?' 

They thought of this all the way to their destination; but 
the bustle of re-establishment in their new place took up all 
their attention then. But when they were settled, a month 
later, they heard of Clare's approaching return, though they 
had learnt nothing more of Tess. Upon that, agitated anew 
by their attachment to him, yet honourably disposed to her, 
Marian uncorked the penny ink-bottle they shared, and a 
few lines were concocted between the two girls. 

HONOUR'D SIR- 

Look to your Wife if you do love her as much as she do love 
you. For she is sore put to by an Enemy in the shape of a 
Friend. Sir, there is one near her who ought to be Away. 
A woman should not be try'd beyond her Strength, and 



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continual dropping will wear away a Stone — ay, more — a 
Diamond. 

FROM TWO WELL-WISHERS 

This was addressed to Angel Clare at the only place they 
had ever heard him to be connected with, Emminster Vic- 
arage; after which they continued in a mood of emotional 
exaltation at their own generosity, which made them sing in 
hysterical snatches and weep at the same time. 

END OF PHASE THE SIXTH 



536 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



Phase the Seventh: 
Fulfilment 



LIII 

It was evening at Emminster Vicarage. The two custom- 
ary candles were burning under their green shades in the 
Vicar's study, but he had not been sitting there. Occasion- 
ally he came in, stirred the small fire which sufficed for 
the increasing mildness of the spring, and went out again; 
sometimes pausing at the front door, going on to the draw- 
ing-room, then returning again to the front door. 

It faced westward, and though gloom prevailed inside, 
there was still light enough without to see with distinctness. 
Mrs Clare, who had been sitting in the drawing-room, fol- 
lowed him hither. 

'Plenty of time yet,' said the Vicar. 'He doesn't reach 
Chalk-Newton till six, even if the train should be punctual, 
and ten miles of country-road, five of them in Crimmercrock 
Lane, are not jogged over in a hurry by our old horse.' 

'But he has done it in an hour with us, my dear.' 

'Years ago.' 

Thus they passed the minutes, each well knowing that 
this was only waste of breath, the one essential being sim- 
ply to wait. 

At length there was a slight noise in the lane, and the old 

FreeeBooksatPlaneteBook.com 537 



pony-chaise appeared indeed outside the railings. They saw 
alight therefrom a form which they affected to recognize, 
but would actually have passed by in the street without iden- 
tifying had he not got out of their carriage at the particular 
moment when a particular person was due. 

Mrs Clare rushed through the dark passage to the door, 
and her husband came more slowly after her. 

The new arrival, who was just about to enter, saw their 
anxious faces in the doorway and the gleam of the west in 
their spectacles because they confronted the last rays of day; 
but they could only see his shape against the light. 

'O, my boy, my boy — home again at last!' cried Mrs Clare, 
who cared no more at that moment for the stains of hetero- 
doxy which had caused all this separation than for the dust 
upon his clothes. What woman, indeed, among the most 
faithful adherents of the truth, believes the promises and 
threats of the Word in the sense in which she believes in her 
own children, or would not throw her theology to the wind 
if weighed against their happiness? As soon as they reached 
the room where the candles were lighted she looked at his 
face. 

'O, it is not Angel — not my son — the Angel who went 
away!' she cried in all the irony of sorrow, as she turned her- 
self aside. 

His father, too, was shocked to see him, so reduced was 
that figure from its former contours by worry and the bad 
season that Clare had experienced, in the climate to which 
he had so rashly hurried in his first aversion to the mock- 
ery of events at home. You could see the skeleton behind the 



538 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



man, and almost the ghost behind the skeleton. He matched 
Crivelli's dead Christus. His sunken eye-pits were of morbid 
hue, and the light in his eyes had waned. The angular hol- 
lows and lines of his aged ancestors had succeeded to their 
reign in his face twenty years before their time. 

'I was ill over there, you know,' he said. 'I am all right 
now.' 

As if, however, to falsify this assertion, his legs seemed to 
give way, and he suddenly sat down to save himself from fall- 
ing. It was only a slight attack of faintness, resulting from the 
tedious day's journey, and the excitement of arrival. 

'Has any letter come for me lately?' he asked. 'I received 
the last you sent on by the merest chance, and after consid- 
erable delay through being inland; or I might have come 
sooner.' 

'It was from your wife, we supposed?' 

'It was.' 

Only one other had recently come. They had not sent it on 
to him, knowing he would start for home so soon. 

He hastily opened the letter produced, and was much 
disturbed to read in Tess's handwriting the sentiments ex- 
pressed in her last hurried scrawl to him. 

why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not 
deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, 
never forgive you! You know that I did not intend to wrong 
you — why have you so wronged me? You are cruel, cruel 
indeed! I will try to forget you. It is all injustice I have received 
at your hands! 



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T. 



'It is quite true!' said Angel, throwing down the letter. 
'Perhaps she will never be reconciled to me!' 

'Don't, Angel, be so anxious about a mere child of the 
soil!' said his mother. 

'Child of the soil! Well, we all are children of the soil. I 
wish she were so in the sense you mean; but let me now ex- 
plain to you what I have never explained before, that her 
father is a descendant in the male line of one of the oldest 
Norman houses, like a good many others who lead obscure 
agricultural lives in our villages, and are dubbed 'sons of the 
soil." 

He soon retired to bed; and the next morning, feeling ex- 
ceedingly unwell, he remained in his room pondering. The 
circumstances amid which he had left Tess were such that 
though, while on the south of the Equator and just in re- 
ceipt of her loving epistle, it had seemed the easiest thing in 
the world to rush back into her arms the moment he chose 
to forgive her, now that he had arrived it was not so easy 
as it had seemed. She was passionate, and her present let- 
ter, showing that her estimate of him had changed under his 
delay — too justly changed, he sadly owned, — made him ask 
himself if it would be wise to confront her unannounced in 
the presence of her parents. Supposing that her love had in- 
deed turned to dislike during the last weeks of separation, a 
sudden meeting might lead to bitter words. 

Clare therefore thought it would be best to prepare Tess 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



and her family by sending a line to Marlott announcing 
his return, and his hope that she was still living with them 
there, as he had arranged for her to do when he left Eng- 
land. He despatched the inquiry that very day, and before 
the week was out there came a short reply from Mrs Durbey- 
field which did not remove his embarrassment, for it bore 
no address, though to his surprise it was not written from 
Marlott. 



SIR, 



J write these few lines to say that my Daughter is away from 
me at present, and] am not sure when she willreturn, but J 
will let you know as Soon as she do. J do not feel at liberty to 
tell you Where she is temperly biding. J should say that me and 
my Family have left Marlott for some Time. — 

Yours, 

J. DURBEYFIELD 

It was such a relief to Clare to learn that Tess was at least 
apparently well that her mother's stiff reticence as to her 
whereabouts did not long distress him. They were all an- 
gry with him, evidently. He would wait till Mrs Durbeyfield 
could inform him of Tess's return, which her letter implied 
to be soon. He deserved no more. His had been a love 'which 
alters when it alteration finds". He had undergone some 
strange experiences in his absence; he had seen the virtual 



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Faustina in the literal Cornelia, a spiritual Lucretia in a cor- 
poreal Phryne; he had thought of the woman taken and set 
in the midst as one deserving to be stoned, and of the wife 
of Uriah being made a queen; and he had asked himself why 
he had not judged Tess constructively rather than biographi- 
cally, by the will rather than by the deed? 

A day or two passed while he waited at his father's house 
for the promised second note from Joan Durbeyfield, and 
indirectly to recover a little more strength. The strength 
showed signs of coming back, but there was no sign of Joan's 
letter. Then he hunted up the old letter sent on to him in Bra- 
zil, which Tess had written from Flintcomb-Ash, and re-read 
it. The sentences touched him now as much as when he had 
first perused them. 

... I must cry to you in my trouble — I have no one else! ... I 
think I must die if you do not come soon, or tell me to come to 
you... please, please, not to be just — only a little kind to me ... 
If you would come, I could die in your arms! I would be well 
content to do that if so be you hadforgiven me! ... if you will 
send me one little line, and say, 'I am coming soon,' I will bide 
on, Angel — 0, so cheerfully! ... think how it do hurt my heart 
not to see you ever — ever! Ah, if I could only make your dear 
heart ache one little minute of each day as mine does every day 
and all day long, it might lead you to show pity to your poor 
lonely one. ... I would be content, ay, glad, to live with you as 
your servant, if I may not as your wife; so that I could only be 
near you, and get glimpses of you, and think of you as mine. ... 
I long for only one thing in heaven or earth or under the earth, 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



to meet you, my own dear! Come to me — come to me, and save 
me from what threatens me! 

Clare determined that he would no longer believe in her 
more recent and severer regard of him, but would go and 
find her immediately. He asked his father if she had applied 
for any money during his absence. His father returned a neg- 
ative, and then for the first time it occurred to Angel that her 
pride had stood in her way, and that she had suffered pri- 
vation. From his remarks his parents now gathered the real 
reason of the separation; and their Christianity was such 
that, reprobates being their especial care, the tenderness to- 
wards Tess which her blood, her simplicity, even her poverty, 
had not engendered, was instantly excited by her sin. 

Whilst he was hastily packing together a few articles 
for his journey he glanced over a poor plain missive also 
lately come to hand — the one from Marian and Izz Huett, 
beginning — 

'Honour'd Sir, Look to your Wife if you do love her as 
much as she do love you,' and signed, 'From Two Well-Wish- 
ers.' 



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LIV 



In a quarter of an hour Clare was leaving the house, whence 
his mother watched his thin figure as it disappeared into the 
street. He had declined to borrow his father's old mare, well 
knowing of its necessity to the household. He went to the 
inn, where he hired a trap, and could hardly wait during the 
harnessing. In a very few minutes after, he was driving up 
the hill out of the town which, three or four months earlier 
in the year, Tess had descended with such hopes and ascend- 
ed with such shattered purposes. 

Benvill Lane soon stretched before him, its hedges and 
trees purple with buds; but he was looking at other things, 
and only recalled himself to the scene sufficiently to enable 
him to keep the way. In something less than an hour-and-a- 
half he had skirted the south of the King's Hintock estates 
and ascended to the untoward solitude of Cross-in-Hand, 
the unholy stone whereon Tess had been compelled by 
Alec d'Urberville, in his whim of reformation, to swear the 
strange oath that she would never wilfully tempt him again. 
The pale and blasted nettle-stems of the preceding year even 
now lingered nakedly in the banks, young green nettles of 
the present spring growing from their roots. 

Thence he went along the verge of the upland overhang- 
ing the other Hintocks, and, turning to the right, plunged 
into the bracing calcareous region of Flintcomb-Ash, the 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



address from which she had written to him in one of the 
letters, and which he supposed to be the place of sojourn re- 
ferred to by her mother. Here, of course, he did not find her; 
and what added to his depression was the discovery that no 
'Mrs Clare' had ever been heard of by the cottagers or by the 
farmer himself, though Tess was remembered well enough 
by her Christian name. His name she had obviously never 
used during their separation, and her dignified sense of their 
total severance was shown not much less by this abstention 
than by the hardships she had chosen to undergo (of which 
he now learnt for the first time) rather than apply to his fa- 
ther for more funds. 

From this place they told him Tess Durbeyfield had gone, 
without due notice, to the home of her parents on the other 
side of Blackmoor, and it therefore became necessary to find 
Mrs Durbeyfield. She had told him she was not now at Mar- 
lott, but had been curiously reticent as to her actual address, 
and the only course was to go to Marlott and inquire for it. 
The farmer who had been so churlish with Tess was quite 
smooth-tongued to Clare, and lent him a horse and man to 
drive him towards Marlott, the gig he had arrived in being 
sent back to Emminster; for the limit of a day's journey with 
that horse was reached. 

Clare would not accept the loan of the farmer's vehicle 
for a further distance than to the outskirts of the Vale, and, 
sending it back with the man who had driven him, he put up 
at an inn, and next day entered on foot the region wherein 
was the spot of his dear Tess's birth. It was as yet too early in 
the year for much colour to appear in the gardens and foli- 



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age; the so-called spring was but winter overlaid with a thin 
coat of greenness, and it was of a parcel with his expecta- 
tions. 

The house in which Tess had passed the years of her child- 
hood was now inhabited by another family who had never 
known her. The new residents were in the garden, taking as 
much interest in their own doings as if the homestead had 
never passed its primal time in conjunction with the histo- 
ries of others, beside which the histories of these were but as 
a tale told by an idiot. They walked about the garden paths 
with thoughts of their own concerns entirely uppermost, 
bringing their actions at every moment in jarring collision 
with the dim ghosts behind them, talking as though the 
time when Tess lived there were not one whit intenser in sto- 
ry than now. Even the spring birds sang over their heads as if 
they thought there was nobody missing in particular. 

On inquiry of these precious innocents, to whom even 
the name of their predecessors was a failing memory, Clare 
learned that John Durbeyfield was dead; that his widow and 
children had left Marlott, declaring that they were going to 
live at Kingsbere, but instead of doing so had gone on to an- 
other place they mentioned. By this time Clare abhorred the 
house for ceasing to contain Tess, and hastened away from 
its hated presence without once looking back. 

His way was by the field in which he had first beheld her at 
the dance. It was as bad as the house — even worse. He passed 
on through the churchyard, where, amongst the new head- 
stones, he saw one of a somewhat superior design to the rest. 
The inscription ran thus: 



546 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



In memory of John Durbeyfield, rightly d'Urberville, of the 
once powerful family of that Name, and Direct Descendant 
through an illustrious Line from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, one of 
the Knights of the Conqueror. Died March 10th, 18 — 

HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN. 

Some man, apparently the sexton, had observed Clare 
standing there, and drew nigh. 'Ah, sir, now that's a man who 
didn't want to lie here, but wished to be carried to Kingsbere, 
where his ancestors be.' 

'And why didn't they respect his wish?' 

'Oh — no money. Bless your soul, sir, why — there, I 
wouldn't wish to say it everywhere, but — even this head- 
stone, for all the flourish wrote upon en, is not paid for.' 

Ah, who put it up?' 

The man told the name of a mason in the village, and, on 
leaving the churchyard, Clare called at the mason's house. 
He found that the statement was true, and paid the bill. This 
done, he turned in the direction of the migrants. 

The distance was too long for a walk, but Clare felt such a 
strong desire for isolation that at first he would neither hire 
a conveyance nor go to a circuitous line of railway by which 
he might eventually reach the place. At Shaston, however, 
he found he must hire; but the way was such that he did not 
enter Joan's place till about seven o'clock in the evening, hav- 
ing traversed a distance of over twenty miles since leaving 
Marlott. 

The village being small he had little difficulty in finding 



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Mrs Durbeyfield's tenement, which was a house in a walled 
garden, remote from the main road, where she had stowed 
away her clumsy old furniture as best she could. It was plain 
that for some reason or other she had not wished him to visit 
her, and he felt his call to be somewhat of an intrusion. She 
came to the door herself, and the light from the evening sky 
fell upon her face. 

This was the first time that Clare had ever met her, but he 
was too preoccupied to observe more than that she was still 
a handsome woman, in the garb of a respectable widow. He 
was obliged to explain that he was Tess's husband, and his 
object in coming there, and he did it awkwardly enough. 'I 
want to see her at once,' he added. 'You said you would write 
to me again, but you have not done so.' 

'Because she've not come home,' said Joan. 

'Do you know if she is well?' 

'I don't. But you ought to, sir,' said she. 

'I admit it. Where is she staying?' 

From the beginning of the interview Joan had disclosed 
her embarrassment by keeping her hand to the side of her 
cheek. 

'I — don't know exactly where she is staying,' she an- 
swered. 'She was — but — ' 

'Where was she?' 

Well, she is not there now.' 

In her evasiveness she paused again, and the younger 
children had by this time crept to the door, where, pulling at 
his mother's skirts, the youngest murmured — 

'Is this the gentleman who is going to marry Tess?' 



548 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'He has married her,' Joan whispered. 'Go inside.' 

Clare saw her efforts for reticence, and asked — 

'Do you think Tess would wish me to try and find her? If 
not, of course — ' 

'I don't think she would.' 

'Are you sure?' 

'I am sure she wouldn't.' 

He was turning away; and then he thought of Tess's ten- 
der letter. 

'I am sure she would!' he retorted passionately. 'I know 
her better than you do.' 

'That's very likely, sir; for I have never really known her.' 

'Please tell me her address, Mrs Durbeyfield, in kindness 
to a lonely wretched man!' Tess's mother again restlessly 
swept her cheek with her vertical hand, and seeing that he 
suffered, she at last said, is a low voice — 

'She is at Sandbourne.' 

'Ah — where there? Sandbourne has become a large place, 
they say' 

'I don't know more particularly than I have said — Sand- 
bourne. For myself, I was never there.' 

It was apparent that Joan spoke the truth in this, and he 
pressed her no further. 

Are you in want of anything?' he said gently. 

'No, sir,' she replied. We are fairly well provided for.' 

Without entering the house Clare turned away. There 
was a station three miles ahead, and paying off his coach- 
man, he walked thither. The last train to Sandbourne left 
shortly after, and it bore Clare on its wheels. 



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LV 



At eleven o'clock that night, having secured a bed at one 
of the hotels and telegraphed his address to his father im- 
mediately on his arrival, he walked out into the streets of 
Sandbourne. It was too late to call on or inquire for any one, 
and he reluctantly postponed his purpose till the morning. 
But he could not retire to rest just yet. 

This fashionable watering-place, with its eastern and 
its western stations, its piers, its groves of pines, its prom- 
enades, and its covered gardens, was, to Angel Clare, like a 
fairy place suddenly created by the stroke of a wand, and al- 
lowed to get a little dusty. An outlying eastern tract of the 
enormous Egdon Waste was close at hand, yet on the very 
verge of that tawny piece of antiquity such a glittering nov- 
elty as this pleasure city had chosen to spring up. Within the 
space of a mile from its outskirts every irregularity of the 
soil was prehistoric, every channel an undisturbed British 
trackway; not a sod having been turned there since the days 
of the Caesars. Yet the exotic had grown here, suddenly as 
the prophet's gourd; and had drawn hither Tess. 

By the midnight lamps he went up and down the wind- 
ing way of this new world in an old one, and could discern 
between the trees and against the stars the lofty roofs, 
chimneys, gazebos, and towers of the numerous fanciful 
residences of which the place was composed. It was a city of 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



detached mansions; a Mediterranean lounging-place on the 
English Channel; and as seen now by night it seemed even 
more imposing than it was. 

The sea was near at hand, but not intrusive; it murmured, 
and he thought it was the pines; the pines murmured in pre- 
cisely the same tones, and he thought they were the sea. 

Where could Tess possibly be, a cottage-girl, his young 
wife, amidst all this wealth and fashion? The more he pon- 
dered, the more was he puzzled. Were there any cows to milk 
here? There certainly were no fields to till. She was most prob- 
ably engaged to do something in one of these large houses; 
and he sauntered along, looking at the chamber-windows 
and their lights going out one by one, and wondered which 
of them might be hers. 

Conjecture was useless, and just after twelve o'clock he 
entered and went to bed. Before putting out his light he 
re-read Tess's impassioned letter. Sleep, however, he could 
not — so near her, yet so far from her — and he continually 
lifted the window-blind and regarded the backs of the op- 
posite houses, and wondered behind which of the sashes she 
reposed at that moment. 

He might almost as well have sat up all night. In the 
morning he arose at seven, and shortly after went out, taking 
the direction of the chief post-office. At the door he met an 
intelligent postman coming out with letters for the morn- 
ing delivery. 

'Do you know the address of a Mrs Clare?' asked Angel. 
The postman shook his head. 

Then, remembering that she would have been likely to 



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continue the use of her maiden name, Clare said — 

'Of a Miss Durbeyfield?' 

'Durbeyfield?' 

This also was strange to the postman addressed. 

'There's visitors coming and going every day, as you know, 
sir,' he said; 'and without the name of the house 'tis impos- 
sible to find 'em.' 

One of his comrades hastening out at that moment, the 
name was repeated to him. 

'I know no name of Durbeyfield; but there is the name of 
d'Urberville at The Herons,' said the second. 

'That's it!' cried Clare, pleased to think that she had revert- 
ed to the real pronunciation. 'What place is The Herons?' 

'A stylish lodging-house. 'Tis all lodging-houses here, 
bless 'ee.' 

Clare received directions how to find the house, and 
hastened thither, arriving with the milkman. The Herons, 
though an ordinary villa, stood in its own grounds, and was 
certainly the last place in which one would have expected to 
find lodgings, so private was its appearance. If poor Tess was 
a servant here, as he feared, she would go to the back-door to 
that milkman, and he was inclined to go thither also. How- 
ever, in his doubts he turned to the front, and rang. 

The hour being early, the landlady herself opened the 
door. Clare inquired for Teresa d'Urberville or Durbeyfield. 

'Mrs d'Urberville?' 

'Yes.' 

Tess, then, passed as a married woman, and he felt glad, 
even though she had not adopted his name. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'Will you kindly tell her that a relative is anxious to see 
her?' 

'It is rather early. What name shall I give, sir?' 

'Angel.' 

'Mr Angel?' 

'No; Angel. It is my Christian name. She'll understand.' 

'I'll see if she is awake.' 

He was shown into the front room — the dining-room — 
and looked out through the spring curtains at the little lawn, 
and the rhododendrons and other shrubs upon it. Obviously 
her position was by no means so bad as he had feared, and it 
crossed his mind that she must somehow have claimed and 
sold the jewels to attain it. He did not blame her for one mo- 
ment. Soon his sharpened ear detected footsteps upon the 
stairs, at which his heart thumped so painfully that he could 
hardly stand firm. 'Dear me! what will she think of me, so al- 
tered as I am!' he said to himself; and the door opened. 

Tess appeared on the threshold — not at all as he had ex- 
pected to see her — bewilderingly otherwise, indeed. Her 
great natural beauty was, if not heightened, rendered more 
obvious by her attire. She was loosely wrapped in a cashmere 
dressing-gown of gray-white, embroidered in half-mourn- 
ing tints, and she wore slippers of the same hue. Her neck 
rose out of a frill of down, and her well-remembered cable of 
dark-brown hair was partially coiled up in a mass at the back 
of her head and partly hanging on her shoulder — the evident 
result of haste. 

He had held out his arms, but they had fallen again to his 
side; for she had not come forward, remaining still in the 



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opening of the doorway. Mere yellow skeleton that he was 
now, he felt the contrast between them, and thought his ap- 
pearance distasteful to her. 

'Tess!' he said huskily, 'can you forgive me for going away? 
Can't you — come to me? How do you get to be — like this?' 

'It is too late,' said she, her voice sounding hard through 
the room, her eyes shining unnaturally. 

'I did not think rightly of you — I did not see you as you 
were!' he continued to plead. 'I have learnt to since, dearest 
Tessy mine!' 

'Too late, too late!' she said, waving her hand in the impa- 
tience of a person whose tortures cause every instant to seem 
an hour. 'Don't come close to me, Angel! No — you must not. 
Keep away.' 

'But don't you love me, my dear wife, because I have been 
so pulled down by illness? You are not so fickle — I am come 
on purpose for you — my mother and father will welcome 
you now!' 

'Yes — O, yes, yes! But I say, I say it is too late.' 

She seemed to feel like a fugitive in a dream, who tries 
to move away, but cannot. 'Don't you know all — don't you 
know it? Yet how do you come here if you do not know?' 

'I inquired here and there, and I found the way.' 

'I waited and waited for you,' she went on, her tones sud- 
denly resuming their old fluty pathos. 'But you did not come! 
And I wrote to you, and you did not come! He kept on say- 
ing you would never come any more, and that I was a foolish 
woman. He was very kind to me, and to mother, and to all of 
us after father's death. He — ' 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



'I don't understand.' 

'He has won me back to him.' 

Clare looked at her keenly, then, gathering her meaning, 
flagged like one plague-stricken, and his glance sank; it fell 
on her hands, which, once rosy, were now white and more 
delicate. 

She continued — 

'He is upstairs. I hate him now, because he told me a lie — 
that you would not come again; and you HAVE come! These 
clothes are what he's put upon me: I didn't care what he did 
wi' me! But — will you go away, Angel, please, and never 
come any more?' 

They stood fixed, their baffled hearts looking out of their 
eyes with a joylessness pitiful to see. Both seemed to implore 
something to shelter them from reality. 

Ah — it is my fault!' said Clare. 

But he could not get on. Speech was as inexpressive as 
silence. But he had a vague consciousness of one thing, 
though it was not clear to him till later; that his original Tess 
had spiritually ceased to recognize the body before him as 
hers — allowing it to drift, like a corpse upon the current, in 
a direction dissociated from its living will. 

A few instants passed, and he found that Tess was gone. 
His face grew colder and more shrunken as he stood con- 
centrated on the moment, and a minute or two after, he 
found himself in the street, walking along he did not know 
whither. 



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LVI 



Mrs Brooks, the lady who was the householder at The 
Herons and owner of all the handsome furniture, was not 
a person of an unusually curious turn of mind. She was 
too deeply materialized, poor woman, by her long and en- 
forced bondage to that arithmetical demon Profit-and-Loss, 
to retain much curiousity for its own sake, and apart from 
possible lodgers' pockets. Nevertheless, the visit of Angel 
Clare to her well-paying tenants, Mr and Mrs d'Urberville, 
as she deemed them, was sufficiently exceptional in point 
of time and manner to reinvigorate the feminine proclivity 
which had been stifled down as useless save in its bearings 
to the letting trade. 

Tess had spoken to her husband from the doorway, with- 
out entering the dining-room, and Mrs Brooks, who stood 
within the partly-closed door of her own sitting-room at the 
back of the passage, could hear fragments of the conversa- 
tion — if conversation it could be called — between those two 
wretched souls. She heard Tess re-ascend the stairs to the 
first floor, and the departure of Clare, and the closing of the 
front door behind him. Then the door of the room above 
was shut, and Mrs Brooks knew that Tess had re-entered 
her apartment. As the young lady was not fully dressed, 
Mrs Brooks knew that she would not emerge again for some 
time. 



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She accordingly ascended the stairs softly, and stood at 
the door of the front room — a drawing-room, connected 
with the room immediately behind it (which was a bed- 
room) by folding-doors in the common manner. This first 
floor, containing Mrs Brooks's best apartments, had been 
taken by the week by the d'Urbervilles. The back room was 
now in silence; but from the drawing-room there came 
sounds. 

All that she could at first distinguish of them was one 
syllable, continually repeated in a low note of moaning, as if 
it came from a soul bound to some Ixionian wheel — 

'O— O— O!' 

Then a silence, then a heavy sigh, and again — 

'O— O— O!' 

The landlady looked through the keyhole. Only a small 
space of the room inside was visible, but within that space 
came a corner of the breakfast table, which was already 
spread for the meal, and also a chair beside. Over the seat of 
the chair Tess's face was bowed, her posture being a kneel- 
ing one in front of it; her hands were clasped over her head, 
the skirts of her dressing-gown and the embroidery of her 
night-gown flowed upon the floor behind her, and her stock- 
ingless feet, from which the slippers had fallen, protruded 
upon the carpet. It was from her lips that came the murmur 
of unspeakable despair. 

Then a man's voice from the adjoining bedroom — 

'What's the matter?' 

She did not answer, but went on, in a tone which was 
a soliloquy rather than an exclamation, and a dirge rather 



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than a soliloquy. Mrs Brooks could only catch a portion: 

'And then my dear, dear husband came home tome... and 
I did not know it! ... And you had used your cruel persua- 
sion upon me ... you did not stop using it — no — you did not 
stop! My little sisters and brothers and my mother's needs — 
they were the things you moved me by ... and you said my 
husband would never come back — never; and you taunted 
me, and said what a simpleton I was to expect him! ... And at 
last I believed you and gave way! ... And then he came back! 
Now he is gone. Gone a second time, and I have lost him 
now for ever ... and he will not love me the littlest bit ever 
any more — only hate me! ... O yes, I have lost him now — 
again because of — you!' In writhing, with her head on the 
chair, she turned her face towards the door, and Mrs Brooks 
could see the pain upon it, and that her lips were bleeding 
from the clench of her teeth upon them, and that the long 
lashes of her closed eyes stuck in wet tags to her cheeks. She 
continued: And he is dying — he looks as if he is dying! ... 
And my sin will kill him and not kill me! ... O, you have 
torn my life all to pieces ... made me be what I prayed you in 
pity not to make me be again! ... My own true husband will 
never, never — O God — I can't bear this! — I cannot!' 

There were more and sharper words from the man; then 
a sudden rustle; she had sprung to her feet. Mrs Brooks, 
thinking that the speaker was coming to rush out of the 
door, hastily retreated down the stairs. 

She need not have done so, however, for the door of the 
sitting-room was not opened. But Mrs Brooks felt it unsafe 
to watch on the landing again, and entered her own parlour 



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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



below. 

She could hear nothing through the floor, although she 
listened intently, and thereupon went to the kitchen to fin- 
ish her interrupted breakfast. Coming up presently to the 
front room on the ground floor she took up some sewing, 
waiting for her lodgers to ring that she might take away the 
breakfast, which she meant to do herself, to discover what 
was the matter if possible. Overhead, as she sat, she could 
now hear the floorboards slightly creak, as if some one were 
walking about, and presently the movement was explained 
by the rustle of garments against the banisters, the open- 
ing and the closing of the front door, and the form of Tess 
passing to the gate on her way into the street. She was fully 
dressed now in the walking costume of a well-to-do young 
lady in which she had arrived, with the sole addition that 
over her hat and black feathers a veil was drawn. 

Mrs Brooks had not been able to catch any word of fare- 
well, temporary or otherwise, between her tenants at the 
door above. They might have quarrelled, or Mr d'Urberville 
might still be asleep, for he was not an early riser. 

She went into the back room, which was more especially 
her own apartment, and continued her sewing there. The 
lady lodger did not return, nor did the gentleman ring his 
bell. Mrs Brooks pondered on the delay, and on what prob- 
able relation the visitor who had called so early bore to the 
couple upstairs. In reflecting she leant back in her chair. 

As she did so her eyes glanced casually over the ceiling 
till they were arrested by a spot in the middle of its white 
surface which she had never noticed there before. It was 



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about the size of a wafer when she first observed it, but it 
speedily grew as large as the palm of her hand, and then 
she could perceive that it was red. The oblong white ceiling, 
with this scarlet blot in the midst, had the appearance of a 
gigantic ace of hearts. 

Mrs Brooks had strange qualms of misgiving. She got 
upon the table, and touched the spot in the ceiling with her 
fingers. It was damp, and she fancied that it was a blood 
stain. 

Descending from the table, she left the parlour, and went 
upstairs, intending to enter the room overhead, which was 
the bedchamber at the back of the drawing-room. But, 
nerveless woman as she had now become, she could not 
bring herself to attempt the handle. She listened. The dead 
silence within was broken only by a regular beat. 

Drip, drip, drip. 

Mrs Brooks hastened downstairs, opened the front door, 
and ran into the street. A man she knew, one of the work- 
men employed at an adjoining villa, was passing by, and she 
begged him to come in and go upstairs with her; she feared 
something had happened to one of her lodgers. The work- 
man assented, and followed her to the landing. 

She opened the door of the drawing-room, and stood 
back for him to pass in, entering herself behind him. The 
room was empty; the breakfast — a substantial repast of 
coffee, eggs, and a cold ham — lay spread upon the table un- 
touched, as when she had taken it up, excepting that the 
carving-knife was missing. She asked the man to go through 
the folding-doors into the adjoining room. 



560 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



He opened the doors, entered a step or two, and came 
back almost instantly with a rigid face. 'My good God, the 
gentleman in bed is dead! I think he has been hurt with a 
knife — a lot of blood had run down upon the floor!' 

The alarm was soon given, and the house which had 
lately been so quiet resounded with the tramp of many foot- 
steps, a surgeon among the rest. The wound was small, but 
the point of the blade had touched the heart of the victim, 
who lay on his back, pale, fixed, dead, as if he had scarcely 
moved after the infliction of the blow. In a quarter of an 
hour the news that a gentleman who was a temporary visi- 
tor to the town had been stabbed in his bed, spread through 
every street and villa of the popular watering-place. 



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561 



LVII 



Meanwhile Angel Clare had walked automatically 
along the way by which he had come, and, entering his ho- 
tel, sat down over the breakfast, staring at nothingness. He 
went on eating and drinking unconsciously till on a sudden 
he demanded his bill; having paid which, he took his dress- 
ing-bag in his hand, the only luggage he had brought with 
him, and went out. 

At the moment of his departure a telegram was handed 
to him — a few words from his mother, stating that they were 
glad to know his address, and informing him that his broth- 
er Cuthbert had proposed to and been accepted by Mercy 
Chant. 

Clare crumpled up the paper and followed the route to 
the station; reaching it, he found that there would be no 
train leaving for an hour and more. He sat down to wait, 
and having waited a quarter of an hour felt that he could 
wait there no longer. Broken in heart and numbed, he had 
nothing to hurry for; but he wished to get out of a town 
which had been the scene of such an experience, and turned 
to walk to the first station onward, and let the train pick 
him up there. 

The highway that he followed was open, and at a little 
distance dipped into a valley, across which it could be seen 
running from edge to edge. He had traversed the greater 



562 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



part of this depression, and was climbing the western ac- 
clivity when, pausing for breath, he unconsciously looked 
back. Why he did so he could not say, but something seemed 
to impel him to the act. The tape-like surface of the road di- 
minished in his rear as far as he could see, and as he gazed 
a moving spot intruded on the white vacuity of its perspec- 
tive. 

It was a human figure running. Clare waited, with a dim 
sense that somebody was trying to overtake him. 

The form descending the incline was a woman's, yet so 
entirely was his mind blinded to the idea of his wife's fol- 
lowing him that even when she came nearer he did not 
recognize her under the totally changed attire in which he 
now beheld her. It was not till she was quite close that he 
could believe her to be Tess. 

'I saw you — turn away from the station — just before I got 
there — and I have been following you all this way!' 

She was so pale, so breathless, so quivering in every mus- 
cle, that he did not ask her a single question, but seizing her 
hand, and pulling it within his arm, he led her along. To 
avoid meeting any possible wayfarers he left the high road 
and took a footpath under some fir-trees. When they were 
deep among the moaning boughs he stopped and looked at 
her inquiringly. 

Angel,' she said, as if waiting for this, 'do you know what 
I have been running after you for? To tell you that I have 
killed him!' A pitiful white smile lit her face as she spoke. 

'What!' said he, thinking from the strangeness of her 
manner that she was in some delirium. 



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563 



'I have done it — I don't know how,' she continued. 'Still, I 
owed it to you, and to myself, Angel. I feared long ago, when 
I struck him on the mouth with my glove, that I might do 
it some day for the trap he set for me in my simple youth, 
and his wrong to you through me. He has come between us 
and ruined us, and now he can never do it any more. I never 
loved him at all, Angel, as I loved you. You know it, don't 
you? You believe it? You didn't come back to me, and I was 
obliged to go back to him. Why did you go away — why did 
you — when I loved you so? I can't think why you did it. But 
I don't blame you; only, Angel, will you forgive me my sin 
against you, now I have killed him? I thought as I ran along 
that you would be sure to forgive me now I have done that. It 
came to me as a shining light that I should get you back that 
way. I could not bear the loss of you any longer — you don't 
know how entirely I was unable to bear your not loving me! 
Say you do now, dear, dear husband; say you do, now I have 
killed him!' 

'I do love you, Tess — O, I do — it is all come back!' he said, 
tightening his arms round her with fervid pressure. 'But 
how do you mean — you have killed him?' 

'I mean that I have,' she murmured in a reverie. 

'What, bodily? Is he dead?' 

'Yes. He heard me crying about you, and he bitterly taunt- 
ed me; and called you by a foul name; and then I did it. My 
heart could not bear it. He had nagged me about you before. 
And then I dressed myself and came away to find you.' 

By degrees he was inclined to believe that she had faint- 
ly attempted, at least, what she said she had done; and his 



564 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



horror at her impulse was mixed with amazement at the 
strength of her affection for himself, and at the strangeness 
of its quality, which had apparently extinguished her moral 
sense altogether. Unable to realize the gravity of her con- 
duct, she seemed at last content; and he looked at her as she 
lay upon his shoulder, weeping with happiness, and won- 
dered what obscure strain in the d'Urberville blood had led 
to this aberration — if it were an aberration. There momen- 
tarily flashed through his mind that the family tradition 
of the coach and murder might have arisen because the 
d'Urbervilles had been known to do these things. As well 
as his confused and excited ideas could reason, he supposed 
that in the moment of mad grief of which she spoke, her 
mind had lost its balance, and plunged her into this abyss. 

It was very terrible if true; if a temporary hallucination, 
sad. But, anyhow, here was this deserted wife of his, this 
passionately-fond woman, clinging to him without a sus- 
picion that he would be anything to her but a protector. 
He saw that for him to be otherwise was not, in her mind, 
within the region of the possible. Tenderness was absolutely 
dominant in Clare at last. He kissed her endlessly with his 
white lips, and held her hand, and said — 

'I will not desert you! I will protect you by every means 
in my power, dearest love, whatever you may have done or 
not have done!' 

They then walked on under the trees, Tess turning her 
head every now and then to look at him. Worn and unhand- 
some as he had become, it was plain that she did not discern 
the least fault in his appearance. To her he was, as of old, all 



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565 



that was perfection, personally and mentally. He was still 
her Antinous, her Apollo even; his sickly face was beautiful 
as the morning to her affectionate regard on this day no less 
than when she first beheld him; for was it not the face of the 
one man on earth who had loved her purely, and who had 
believed in her as pure! 

With an instinct as to possibilities, he did not now, as he 
had intended, make for the first station beyond the town, 
but plunged still farther under the firs, which here abound- 
ed for miles. Each clasping the other round the waist they 
promenaded over the dry bed of fir-needles, thrown into 
a vague intoxicating atmosphere at the consciousness of 
being together at last, with no living soul between them; 
ignoring that there was a corpse. Thus they proceeded for 
several miles till Tess, arousing herself, looked about her, 
and said, timidly — 

Are we going anywhere in particular?' 

'I don't know, dearest. Why?' 

'I don't know.' 

Well, we might walk a few miles further, and when it is 
evening find lodgings somewhere or other — in a lonely cot- 
tage, perhaps. Can you walk well, Tessy?' 

'O yes! I could walk for ever and ever with your arm 
round me!' 

Upon the whole it seemed a good thing to do. Thereupon 
they quickened their pace, avoiding high roads, and follow- 
ing obscure paths tending more or less northward. But there 
was an unpractical vagueness in their movements through- 
out the day; neither one of them seemed to consider any 



566 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



question of effectual escape, disguise, or long concealment. 
Their every idea was temporary and unforefending, like the 
plans of two children. 

At mid-day they drew near to a roadside inn, and Tess 
would have entered it with him to get something to eat, but 
he persuaded her to remain among the trees and bushes 
of this half-woodland, half-moorland part of the country 
till he should come back. Her clothes were of recent fash- 
ion; even the ivory-handled parasol that she carried was 
of a shape unknown in the retired spot to which they had 
now wandered; and the cut of such articles would have at- 
tracted attention in the settle of a tavern. He soon returned, 
with food enough for half-a-dozen people and two bottles 
of wine — enough to last them for a day or more, should any 
emergency arise. 

They sat down upon some dead boughs and shared their 
meal. Between one and two o'clock they packed up the re- 
mainder and went on again. 

'I feel strong enough to walk any distance,' said she. 

'I think we may as well steer in a general way towards 
the interior of the country, where we can hide for a time, 
and are less likely to be looked for than anywhere near the 
coast,' Clare remarked. 'Later on, when they have forgotten 
us, we can make for some port.' 

She made no reply to this beyond that of grasping him 
more tightly, and straight inland they went. Though the sea- 
son was an English May, the weather was serenely bright, 
and during the afternoon it was quite warm. Through the 
latter miles of their walk their footpath had taken them into 



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567 



the depths of the New Forest, and towards evening, turn- 
ing the corner of a lane, they perceived behind a brook and 
bridge a large board on which was painted in white letters, 
"This desirable Mansion to be Let Furnished"; particulars 
following, with directions to apply to some London agents. 
Passing through the gate they could see the house, an old 
brick building of regular design and large accommodation. 

'I know it,' said Clare. 'It is Bramshurst Court. You can 
see that it is shut up, and grass is growing on the drive.' 

'Some of the windows are open,' said Tess. 

'Just to air the rooms, I suppose.' 

'All these rooms empty, and we without a roof to our 
heads!' 

'You are getting tired, my Tess!' he said. 'We'll stop soon.' 
And kissing her sad mouth, he again led her onwards. 

He was growing weary likewise, for they had wandered a 
dozen or fifteen miles, and it became necessary to consider 
what they should do for rest. They looked from afar at iso- 
lated cottages and little inns, and were inclined to approach 
one of the latter, when their hearts failed them, and they 
sheered off. At length their gait dragged, and they stood 
still. 

'Could we sleep under the trees?' she asked. 

He thought the season insufficiently advanced. 

'I have been thinking of that empty mansion we passed,' 
he said. 'Let us go back towards it again.' 

They retraced their steps, but it was half an hour before 
they stood without the entrance-gate as earlier. He then re- 
quested her to stay where she was, whilst he went to see who 



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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



was within. 

She sat down among the bushes within the gate, and 
Clare crept towards the house. His absence lasted some 
considerable time, and when he returned Tess was wildly 
anxious, not for herself, but for him. He had found out from 
a boy that there was only an old woman in charge as care- 
taker, and she only came there on fine days, from the hamlet 
near, to open and shut the windows. She would come to shut 
them at sunset. 'Now, we can get in through one of the lower 
windows, and rest there,' said he. 

Under his escort she went tardily forward to the main 
front, whose shuttered windows, like sightless eyeballs, ex- 
cluded the possibility of watchers. The door was reached 
a few steps further, and one of the windows beside it was 
open. Clare clambered in, and pulled Tess in after him. 

Except the hall, the rooms were all in darkness, and they 
ascended the staircase. Up here also the shutters were tight- 
ly closed, the ventilation being perfunctorily done, for this 
day at least, by opening the hall-window in front and an 
upper window behind. Clare unlatched the door of a large 
chamber, felt his way across it, and parted the shutters to 
the width of two or three inches. A shaft of dazzling sun- 
light glanced into the room, revealing heavy, old-fashioned 
furniture, crimson damask hangings, and an enormous 
four-post bedstead, along the head of which were carved 
running figures, apparently Atalanta's race. 

'Rest at last!' said he, setting down his bag and the parcel 
of viands. 

They remained in great quietness till the caretaker 



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569 



should have come to shut the windows: as a precaution, put- 
ting themselves in total darkness by barring the shutters as 
before, lest the woman should open the door of their cham- 
ber for any casual reason. Between six and seven o'clock 
she came, but did not approach the wing they were in. They 
heard her close the windows, fasten them, lock the door, 
and go away. Then Clare again stole a chink of light from 
the window, and they shared another meal, till by-and-by 
they were enveloped in the shades of night which they had 
no candle to disperse. 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



LVIII 



The night was strangely solemn and still. In the small 
hours she whispered to him the whole story of how he had 
walked in his sleep with her in his arms across the Froom 
stream, at the imminent risk of both their lives, and laid her 
down in the stone coffin at the ruined abbey. He had never 
known of that till now. 

'Why didn't you tell me next day?' he said. 'It might have 
prevented much misunderstanding and woe.' 

'Don't think of what's past!' said she. 'I am not going to 
think outside of now. Why should we! Who knows what to- 
morrow has in store?' 

But it apparently had no sorrow. The morning was wet 
and foggy, and Clare, rightly informed that the caretaker 
only opened the windows on fine days, ventured to creep out 
of their chamber and explore the house, leaving Tess asleep. 
There was no food on the premises, but there was water, and 
he took advantage of the fog to emerge from the mansion 
and fetch tea, bread, and butter from a shop in a little place 
two miles beyond, as also a small tin kettle and spirit-lamp, 
that they might get fire without smoke. His re-entry awoke 
her; and they breakfasted on what he had brought. 

They were indisposed to stir abroad, and the day passed, 
and the night following, and the next, and next; till, al- 
most without their being aware, five days had slipped by in 



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absolute seclusion, not a sight or sound of a human being 
disturbing their peacefulness, such as it was. The changes 
of the weather were their only events, the birds of the New 
Forest their only company. By tacit consent they hardly once 
spoke of any incident of the past subsequent to their wed- 
ding-day. The gloomy intervening time seemed to sink into 
chaos, over which the present and prior times closed as if 
it never had been. Whenever he suggested that they should 
leave their shelter, and go forwards towards Southampton 
or London, she showed a strange unwillingness to move. 

'Why should we put an end to all that's sweet and lovely!' 
she deprecated. 'What must come will come.' And, looking 
through the shutter-chink: 'All is trouble outside there; in- 
side here content.' 

He peeped out also. It was quite true; within was affec- 
tion, union, error forgiven: outside was the inexorable. 

And — and,' she said, pressing her cheek against his, 'I 
fear that what you think of me now may not last. I do not 
wish to outlive your present feeling for me. I would rather 
not. I would rather be dead and buried when the time comes 
for you to despise me, so that it may never be known to me 
that you despised me.' 

'I cannot ever despise you.' 

'I also hope that. But considering what my life has been, 
I cannot see why any man should, sooner or later, be able to 
help despising me.... How wickedly mad I was! Yet formerly 
I never could bear to hurt a fly or a worm, and the sight of a 
bird in a cage used often to make me cry' 

They remained yet another day. In the night the dull 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



sky cleared, and the result was that the old caretaker at the 
cottage awoke early. The brilliant sunrise made her unusu- 
ally brisk; she decided to open the contiguous mansion 
immediately, and to air it thoroughly on such a day. Thus it 
occurred that, having arrived and opened the lower rooms 
before six o'clock, she ascended to the bedchambers, and 
was about to turn the handle of the one wherein they lay. 
At that moment she fancied she could hear the breathing of 
persons within. Her slippers and her antiquity had rendered 
her progress a noiseless one so far, and she made for instant 
retreat; then, deeming that her hearing might have deceived 
her, she turned anew to the door and softly tried the handle. 
The lock was out of order, but a piece of furniture had been 
moved forward on the inside, which prevented her opening 
the door more than an inch or two. A stream of morning 
light through the shutter- chink fell upon the faces of the 
pair, wrapped in profound slumber, Tess's lips being part- 
ed like a half-opened flower near his cheek. The caretaker 
was so struck with their innocent appearance, and with 
the elegance of Tess's gown hanging across a chair, her silk 
stockings beside it, the pretty parasol, and the other habits 
in which she had arrived because she had none else, that her 
first indignation at the effrontery of tramps and vagabonds 
gave way to a momentary sentimentality over this genteel 
elopement, as it seemed. She closed the door, and withdrew 
as softly as she had come, to go and consult with her neigh- 
bours on the odd discovery. 

Not more than a minute had elapsed after her with- 
drawal when Tess woke, and then Clare. Both had a sense 



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that something had disturbed them, though they could not 
say what; and the uneasy feeling which it engendered grew 
stronger. As soon as he was dressed he narrowly scanned 
the lawn through the two or three inches of shutter-chink. 

'I think we will leave at once,' said he. 'It is a fine day. And 
I cannot help fancying somebody is about the house. At any 
rate, the woman will be sure to come to-day.' 

She passively assented, and putting the room in order, 
they took up the few articles that belonged to them, and de- 
parted noiselessly. When they had got into the Forest she 
turned to take a last look at the house. 

Ah, happy house — goodbye!' she said. 'My life can only 
be a question of a few weeks. Why should we not have stayed 
there?' 

'Don't say it, Tess! We shall soon get out of this district 
altogether. We'll continue our course as we've begun it, and 
keep straight north. Nobody will think of looking for us 
there. We shall be looked for at the Wessex ports if we are 
sought at all. When we are in the north we will get to a port 
and away.' 

Having thus persuaded her, the plan was pursued, and 
they kept a bee-line northward. Their long repose at the 
manor-house lent them walking power now; and towards 
mid-day they found that they were approaching the stee- 
pled city of Melchester, which lay directly in their way. He 
decided to rest her in a clump of trees during the afternoon, 
and push onward under cover of darkness. At dusk Clare 
purchased food as usual, and their night march began, the 
boundary between Upper and Mid-Wessex being crossed 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



about eight o'clock. 

To walk across country without much regard to roads 
was not new to Tess, and she showed her old agility in the 
performance. The intercepting city, ancient Melchester, they 
were obliged to pass through in order to take advantage of 
the town bridge for crossing a large river that obstructed 
them. It was about midnight when they went along the de- 
serted streets, lighted fitfully by the few lamps, keeping off 
the pavement that it might not echo their footsteps. The 
graceful pile of cathedral architecture rose dimly on their 
left hand, but it was lost upon them now. Once out of the 
town they followed the turnpike-road, which after a few 
miles plunged across an open plain. 

Though the sky was dense with cloud, a diffused light 
from some fragment of a moon had hitherto helped them 
a little. But the moon had now sunk, the clouds seemed to 
settle almost on their heads, and the night grew as dark as a 
cave. However, they found their way along, keeping as much 
on the turf as possible that their tread might not resound, 
which it was easy to do, there being no hedge or fence of any 
kind. All around was open loneliness and black solitude, 
over which a stiff breeze blew. 

They had proceeded thus gropingly two or three miles 
further when on a sudden Clare became conscious of some 
vast erection close in his front, rising sheer from the grass. 
They had almost struck themselves against it. 

'What monstrous place is this?' said Angel. 

'It hums,' said she. 'Hearken!' 

He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced 



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a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed 
harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and 
advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the 
structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or 
moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what 
he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pil- 
lar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar 
one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something 
made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a 
vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They care- 
fully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed 
their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. 
The place was roofless. Tess drew her breath fearfully, and 
Angel, perplexed, said — 

'What can it be?' 

Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like 
pillar, square and uncompromising as the first; beyond it 
another and another. The place was all doors and pillars, 
some connected above by continuous architraves. 

A very Temple of the Winds,' he said. 

The next pillar was isolated; others composed a trilithon; 
others were prostrate, their flanks forming a causeway wide 
enough for a carriage; and it was soon obvious that they 
made up a forest of monoliths grouped upon the grassy ex- 
panse of the plain. The couple advanced further into this 
pavilion of the night till they stood in its midst. 

'It is Stonehenge!' said Clare. 

'The heathen temple, you mean?' 

'Yes. Older than the centuries; older than the 



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Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



d'Urbervilles! Well, what shall we do, darling? We may find 
shelter further on.' 

But Tess, really tired by this time, flung herself upon an 
oblong slab that lay close at hand, and was sheltered from 
the wind by a pillar. Owing to the action of the sun during 
the preceding day, the stone was warm and dry, in comfort- 
ing contrast to the rough and chill grass around, which had 
damped her skirts and shoes. 

'I don't want to go any further, Angel,' she said, stretch- 
ing out her hand for his. 'Can't we bide here?' 

'I fear not. This spot is visible for miles by day, although 
it does not seem so now.' 

'One of my mother's people was a shepherd hereabouts, 
now I think of it. And you used to say at Talbothays that I 
was a heathen. So now I am at home.' 

He knelt down beside her outstretched form, and put his 
lips upon hers. 

'Sleepy are you, dear? I think you are lying on an altar.' 

'I like very much to be here,' she murmured. 'It is so sol- 
emn and lonely — after my great happiness — with nothing 
but the sky above my face. It seems as if there were no folk 
in the world but we two; and I wish there were not — except 
'Liza-Lu.' 

Clare though she might as well rest here till it should get 
a little lighter, and he flung his overcoat upon her, and sat 
down by her side. 

Angel, if anything happens to me, will you watch over 
'Liza-Lu for my sake?' she asked, when they had listened a 
long time to the wind among the pillars. 



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'I will.' 

'She is so good and simple and pure. O, Angel — I wish 
you would marry her if you lose me, as you will do shortly. 
O, if you would!' 

'If I lose you I lose all! And she is my sister-in-law.' 

'That's nothing, dearest. People marry sister-laws con- 
tinually about Marlott; and 'Liza-Lu is so gentle and sweet, 
and she is growing so beautiful. O, I could share you with 
her willingly when we are spirits! If you would train her and 
teach her, Angel, and bring her up for your own self! ... She 
had all the best of me without the bad of me; and if she were 
to become yours it would almost seem as if death had not 
divided us... Well, I have said it. I won't mention it again.' 

She ceased, and he fell into thought. In the far north-east 
sky he could see between the pillars a level streak of light. 
The uniform concavity of black cloud was lifting bodily like 
the lid of a pot, letting in at the earth's edge the coming day, 
against which the towering monoliths and trilithons began 
to be blackly defined. 

'Did they sacrifice to God here?' asked she. 

'No,' said he. 

'Who to?' 

T believe to the sun. That lofty stone set away by itself is 
in the direction of the sun, which will presently rise behind 
it.' 

"This reminds me, dear,' she said. 'You remember you 
never would interfere with any belief of mine before we were 
married? But I knew your mind all the same, and I thought 
as you thought — not from any reasons of my own, but be- 



578 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



cause you thought so. Tell me now, Angel, do you think we 
shall meet again after we are dead? I want to know.' 

He kissed her to avoid a reply at such a time. 

'O, Angel — I fear that means no!' said she, with a sup- 
pressed sob. And I wanted so to see you again — so much, 
so much! What — not even you and I, Angel, who love each 
other so well?' 

Like a greater than himself, to the critical question at the 
critical time he did not answer; and they were again silent. 
In a minute or two her breathing became more regular, her 
clasp of his hand relaxed, and she fell asleep. The band of 
silver paleness along the east horizon made even the dis- 
tant parts of the Great Plain appear dark and near; and the 
whole enormous landscape bore that impress of reserve, 
taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day. 
The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up black- 
ly against the light, and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone 
beyond them; and the Stone of Sacrifice midway. Presently 
the night wind died out, and the quivering little pools in 
the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still. At the same time 
something seemed to move on the verge of the dip east- 
ward — a mere dot. It was the head of a man approaching 
them from the hollow beyond the Sun-stone. Clare wished 
they had gone onward, but in the circumstances decided to 
remain quiet. The figure came straight towards the circle of 
pillars in which they were. 

He heard something behind him, the brush of feet. Turn- 
ing, he saw over the prostrate columns another figure; then 
before he was aware, another was at hand on the right, un- 



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der a trilithon, and another on the left. The dawn shone full 
on the front of the man westward, and Clare could discern 
from this that he was tall, and walked as if trained. They all 
closed in with evident purpose. Her story then was true! 
Springing to his feet, he looked around for a weapon, loose 
stone, means of escape, anything. By this time the nearest 
man was upon him. 

'It is no use, sir,' he said. "There are sixteen of us on the 
Plain, and the whole country is reared.' 

'Let her finish her sleep!' he implored in a whisper of the 
men as they gathered round. 

When they saw where she lay, which they had not done 
till then, they showed no objection, and stood watching 
her, as still as the pillars around. He went to the stone and 
bent over her, holding one poor little hand; her breathing 
now was quick and small, like that of a lesser creature than 
a woman. All waited in the growing light, their faces and 
hands as if they were silvered, the remainder of their figures 
dark, the stones glistening green-gray, the Plain still a mass 
of shade. Soon the light was strong, and a ray shone upon 
her unconscious form, peering under her eyelids and wak- 
ing her. 

'What is it, Angel?' she said, starting up. 'Have they come 
for me?' 

'Yes, dearest,' he said. 'They have come.' 

'It is as it should be,' she murmured. Angel, I am almost 
glad — yes, glad! This happiness could not have lasted. It was 
too much. I have had enough; and now I shall not live for 
you to despise me!' 



5S0 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



She stood up, shook herself, and went forward, neither of 
the men having moved. 

'I am ready' she said quietly. 



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581 



LIX 



The city of Wintoncester, that fine old city, aforetime capi- 
tal of Wessex, lay amidst its convex and concave downlands 
in all the brightness and warmth of a July morning. The 
gabled brick, tile, and freestone houses had almost dried 
off for the season their integument of lichen, the streams 
in the meadows were low, and in the sloping High Street, 
from the West Gateway to the mediaeval cross, and from 
the mediaeval cross to the bridge, that leisurely dusting and 
sweeping was in progress which usually ushers in an old- 
fashioned market-day. 

From the western gate aforesaid the highway, as every 
Wintoncestrian knows, ascends a long and regular incline 
of the exact length of a measured mile, leaving the houses 
gradually behind. Up this road from the precincts of the 
city two persons were walking rapidly, as if unconscious of 
the trying ascent — unconscious through preoccupation and 
not through buoyancy. They had emerged upon this road 
through a narrow, barred wicket in a high wall a little lower 
down. They seemed anxious to get out of the sight of the 
houses and of their kind, and this road appeared to offer the 
quickest means of doing so. Though they were young, they 
walked with bowed heads, which gait of grief the sun's rays 
smiled on pitilessly. 

One of the pair was Angel Clare, the other a tall budding 



582 



Tess of the d'Urbervilles 



creature — half girl, half woman — a spiritualized image of 
Tess, slighter than she, but with the same beautiful eyes — 
Clare's sister-in-law, 'Liza-Lu. Their pale faces seemed to 
have shrunk to half their natural size. They moved on hand 
in hand, and never spoke a word, the drooping of their 
heads being that of Giotto's 'Two Apostles". 

When they had nearly reached the top of the great West 
Hill the clocks in the town struck eight. Each gave a start at 
the notes, and, walking onward yet a few steps, they reached 
the first milestone, standing whitely on the green margin 
of the grass, and backed by the down, which here was open 
to the road. They entered upon the turf, and, impelled by a 
force that seemed to overrule their will, suddenly stood still, 
turned, and waited in paralyzed suspense beside the stone. 

The prospect from this summit was almost unlimited. 
In the valley beneath lay the city they had just left, its more 
prominent buildings showing as in an isometric drawing — 
among them the broad cathedral tower, with its Norman 
windows and immense length of aisle and nave, the spires 
of St Thomas's, the pinnacled tower of the College, and, 
more to the right, the tower and gables of the ancient hos- 
pice, where to this day the pilgrim may receive his dole of 
bread and ale. Behind the city swept the rotund upland of St 
Catherine's Hill; further off, landscape beyond landscape, 
till the horizon was lost in the radiance of the sun hanging 
above it. 

Against these far stretches of country rose, in front of 
the other city edifices, a large red-brick building, with level 
gray roofs, and rows of short barred windows bespeaking 



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583 



captivity, the whole contrasting greatly by its formalism 
with the quaint irregularities of the Gothic erections. It was 
somewhat disguised from the road in passing it by yews and 
evergreen oaks, but it was visible enough up here. The wick- 
et from which the pair had lately emerged was in the wall of 
this structure. From the middle of the building an ugly flat- 
topped octagonal tower ascended against the east horizon, 
and viewed from this spot, on its shady side and against the 
light, it seemed the one blot on the city's beauty. Yet it was 
with this blot, and not with the beauty, that the two gazers 
were concerned. 

Upon the cornice of the tower a tall staff was fixed. Their 
eyes were riveted on it. A few minutes after the hour had 
struck something moved slowly up the staff, and extended 
itself upon the breeze. It was a black flag. 

'Justice' was done, and the President of the Immortals, in 
Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess. And the 
d'Urberville knights and dames slept on in their tombs un- 
knowing. The two speechless gazers bent themselves down 
to the earth, as if in prayer, and remained thus a long time, 
absolutely motionless: the flag continued to wave silent- 
ly. As soon as they had strength, they arose, joined hands 
again, and went on. 



584 Tess of the d'Urbervilles